The Great (and Odd) Online Community of Runners

This is a post I very briefly outlined and then promptly forgot about for 4 months.

As I’ve avowed many times over, I’m not a distance runner. I’m someone who runs distances. Not the same thing. I also play guitar, but I’m not a guitarist (if you heard me play, you’d say, “No shit.”).

I say that to say this: This isn’t a realm I’m overly comfortable in. I don’t have the physical and mental background to be suited for running distance well.

To get through this little endeavor of mine is a challenge. I need cheat sheets. And that gets us to this post.

Originally, it was titled “Becoming Grateful for the Online Community of Runners.” I’m past that point. I’m grateful. It’s because of other people’s struggles that I’m able to deal with my own stuff.

At the most basic level, there are tools. Runner’s World is pretty fantastic. I really enjoyed the What to Wear function they have. They also have an interesting shoe buying guide where you can both find shoes based on what you already like or input your criteria to come up with shoes.

Now, unfortunately, these things aren’t perfect. They don’t pick up the nuance of individual runners. They can’t find small details that happen after hundreds of miles of using certain gear.

This gets us to the really interesting part of the online community: the bloggers. There are so many bloggers. Because of this, we find the nuance. We find the overweight runner trying to make a lifestyle change. We find a mother of two, balancing kids, a job, and marathon training. And we find people who swear up and down they hate running and yet spend the whole year running 5Ks…

But these people have personality. They also have lives. They’re engaging in these feats without being Meb. We can learn from Meb, but we can’t be Meb.

It actually reminds me of this recent Buzzfeed video series called Life/Change.

They’re in the Morgan Spurlock “Try something for X days and see how it impacts your life.” The difference is scale. Spurlock ate only McDonalds, had people trade lives with people, etc. It’s not something that real people can actually try (or should actually try, in some cases). The Buzzfeed videos feature people making exactly one change that is integrated into the rest of their lives. In other words, the changes are realistic. They’ve done yoga, not shaving, giving up sugar, and P90X. You get insights from people making one change and the effect it has. It’s interesting. They’re not new people. They’re just a little different than they were at the start.

For me, the running bloggers are that same thing. You see them make a change, and you see the change’s effect over a long timeline. But you also see people who have to do the same things you do: get up and go to work, do the dishes, remember the spouse’s birthday, etc.

I have a friend from college who has a blog that incorporates her running (she may even be reading this now). She took up running in the past few years, and has really gone far with it. Get it? Running? Gone far? Nothing? You people have no sense of humor.

Back on topic, she’s documenting her running experiences, and you see the difference over time. It’s interesting. And at the same time, what she has to say is more relevant to me than something “serious” runners have to say. As I go through my transitions into hitting training lulls, finding races, upping mileage, etc., she’s already done it. And the same goes for the rest of this community. People who are truly competitive have probably been running long distances since they were children. When I was a child, I topped out at 2 miles in one run a couple of times. I think I might have gone 2.5 miles before 18 once. In college, I did 2.6 once or twice. It wasn’t until I was in grad school that I compiled multiple 2-mile runs; even then it was on a treadmill. And of course, this year has probably been my highest mileage ever in such a short period. I don’t need experts. I need people who are just past novice.

And what do I do with this information? I cheat off their tests to answer my own questions. My app came from a friend’s recommendation. Getting fitted the first time for running shoes was from another friend. How to handle chafing came from a google search and seeing what other people recommended, including pros and cons. I seek out their experiences to help answer my issues.

And you know what? Even as I bitch and moan about running and how much I hate it, someone in this online community of weirdos like me is still going to be encouraging. This might be the nicest online community ever. If Facebook was full of running bloggers, it would be the most positive place this side of Walt Disney World when Mickey Mouse is greeting small children.


#ihaterunning (you didn’t think I’d stop signing off this way now, did you?)


One thought on “The Great (and Odd) Online Community of Runners”

  1. I did the read the thing! I now feel like a more legit blogger since I have been referenced. I digress. The internet has a lot of horrible bad things out there, but the runner’s community is one of the more fabulous things I’ve found. It reminds me how the interwebs can be a great tool.


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