Monday, January 12, 2015

An (Honestly) Helpful Response to JoAnna Novak Saying No Thanks to the Marathon

Anything that puts down runners in the slightest way definitely gets said runners feathers all ruffled.  One of my most-read columns ever was My Response to Chad Stafko's Article that Runners Need to Get Over Themselves. The one ruffling feathers now is JoAnna Novak's No Marathon For Me, Thanks: Five Reasons She's Opting Out.

I hesitate to link to it or even reply but I had a few friends ask me for my opinion on it so I thought, hey what the heck. Ignoring that it is obviously written to get the most clicks possible, (it worked- I am writing about it) Ms. Novak makes a valid point or two. But I wanted to write an open letter to her with some point-by-point responses and maybe a little advice. Of course I am not a Pushcart-Prize-nominated author of three chapbooks (I had to do a lot of googling there to find out what those are) but I have dealt in the realm of pissing people off on a rather regular basis. I hope this helps.

JoAnna: "1. OPRAH: Ever since Oprah ran the Marine Corps Marathon (with her time of 4:29:20) in 1994, marathons have been about completion. According to “How Oprah Ruined the Marathon,” Edward McClelland’s 2007 article in Salon, the queen of daytime television ushered in a new era of populist racing. Forget a competitive time—the point of running 26.2 miles could simply be … to finish? For better or for worse, I’m a perfectionist, an all-or-nothing gal, who wants to go big or go home. I’m not going big with a marathon so … I’ll stay home."

Me: Marathons have always been about completion. The simple fact that the body can handle about 20 miles before it really starts to break down its stores of glycogen makes those extra 6.2 miles the reason a marathon, no matter how many times you run it, will always be about completion. Sure, the times have slowed over the past twenty years as more and more people who wouldn't think of stepping out the door to run now jump right into the marathon. There are definitely pros and cons about that which I openly talk about with anyone who wants to hear.  However, if you are going to label yourself a "go big or go home gal", lord do I hope you never run a slowish race. Because, since this is the internet, people will find your time and will mock you.

J:  "2.) THE ME-ME-ME SHOW: Just like that pesky friend who’s always announcing her new-found pescatarianism (minus oil, minus dairy, plus chia), the hobby marathoner just rubs me the wrong way! From her Facebook posts about the amazing sights she sees on her long run, to the adoption of idiosyncratic lingo, to the epic race-day dramas (fueling stations! strains!): call me a scrooge, but all that attention just cramps my running style."

Me: Again, you make some valid points. I talk about slowing your roll with the use of "epic" and its ilk myself. But if those people bother you with their Facebook posts, remove them. I do it all the time. However, it is their Facebook wall, no matter how annoying they may be. And again, seriously, watch it with the hobby thing or my goodness if you aren't running 17 minute 5Ks, there is a shitstorm a-brewin'.

J:  "3.) NOTHING TO PROVE: Eight years ago, though, I had a different idea. I’ve always been a distance runner, so one summer I toyed with the idea of training. Slowly, slowly, I upped my six miles to seven to eight to nine to ten; for a couple weeks, I ran a comfortable fourteen. And then, it hit me.
Fourteen miles took up two hours of my day. I’d put in the miles, felt good, but for what? I could imagine myself tacking another twelve-with-change onto that."

Me: You might not have anything to prove but this paragraph doesn't make much sense. Also, no offense, even a "hobby marathoner" might have a problem with you claiming you have "always been a distance runner" but had to "slowly, slowly" up your mileage past seven. I just had a friend who barely runs ask me if she had to do any long runs for her 15k and I was confused. The 15k isn't even a long run, I thought.

Also, you erroneously assume that "proving" something is the reason why we all run marathons. Some do and I wish they didn't. I think we should all just Do it For You.  But we don't. Alas.

J: "4.) KNEES AND HEART: Only maybe is extreme distance racing beneficial for either."

Me: OK, now you are just becoming part of the problem. First of all, 26.2 miles is hard. Very hard.  But it is not extreme. Second, I would hope by now a person who has "always been a distance runner" would know better than to think running is bad for your knees (it is not) or heart (are you kidding me?) Those theories should have been thrown out with the "uterus will fall out" bathwater about 75 years ago.

J: "5.) THE JOYS OF MODERATION: Yes, all-or-nothing is great, but, contradictorily, I’m also a happy passenger on the moderation train. Maybe it’s the prospect of turning thirty in a month, but I want to be able to run for a long, long time. I’m happy to pace myself now to ensure I can run just as well later."

Me: So I guess we should have just ignored the badassery that was the perfectionist stated earlier? Regardless, no one wants to run for a very long period of time less than me. And running and training for marathons (152 and counting), and 202 mile runs, and 350 mile runs over 7 days is not what is going to keep me from doing so.

Good luck on your upcoming 30th birthday. I hope it brings a little more wisdom with it than was showed in this article. If you ever decided to run a marathon, your article notwithstanding, I am sure runners would welcome you with open arms.


Terra said...

I'm glad you didn't link to her. She is retarded. And possibly the worst kind of runner.

Art said...

Terra...please don't use the "R-Word". It just drags down others' perception of you.

Rachel said...

All good points. Yours, not hers.

Lora said...

Oh, Zelle. I have been so disappointed in this site and this just confirms it further. I get that you not every wants to run a marathon. I get that you have your reasons. But none of these even make sense. I don't get the "nothing to prove" paragraph AT ALL. It doesn't make sense. It feels like Zelle was like oh hey, we need a woman to write an article. HEY, you're a woman, do you think you could write an article?

I'd rather they go back to covering the 5,392 ways you can wear your hair while running because, like, just putting in, like, a hair tie is SO 7th grade and we all need to look like supermodels when we run... besides that's the ONLY important issue for women who run.

~ Lora @ Crazy Running Girl

Anonymous said...

I found your blog post retweeted by a fellow running Twitter buddy and love it. You do a great job of showing how backwards this chick's thinking is, and how she's completely contradicting herself. Is she even actually a runner or just trying to get attention from the community?

Toni Lynne said...

I read her article and was thoroughly frustrated. I have always felt that fellow runners were in community together. I always felt like we were a little tribe, when I came across her post it made my heart sink a little. I forget how judgmental some people can be. We all have our own reasons for running, and not running but who does she think she is putting labels on those of us who choose to run marathons "me me me show" or "nothing to prove" ect. I loved your responses to her post. Also claiming to be a distance runner but not actually running distance? Doesn't make a lot of sense to me?

I think the only reason she put that post out there is because somewhere deep down she has an inner nagging that wants to run a marathon, but is TOO SCARED TO TRY.

Thanks for responding to her and calling her out, I didn't dare! Well said Dane! Love reading about your runs, you are an inspiration to me (seriously, 152? My goodness, I'm on #4 next week, I can't wait until my numbers are up there like yours)!

Toni Lynne (also, 30yrs old next month)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this. I found your post linked from another blogger and couldn't agree with you more. I didn't even read her article and I'm got heated. Thanks for saying what we're all thinking!

Easton Matriarch said...

I turn 30 on Wednesday and plan on sandwiching work between a 30k run and 30 mile bike ride....take that moderation! This woman exemplifies a typical recreational runner - the ones that may run a few miles a couple times a week to stay in shape but that will never understand the passion that consumes runners like me. Wonder what she thinks about ultra runners.... my last long run was six hours and honestly...there was no place I'd rather have been.

Unknown said...

I like the shutdown on her article! Here's the thing, don't want to run a marathon?? Fine, don't train, register or complete one. No reason to criticize the ones that choose to go farther than 7 miles or so.

Tom said...

After looking her up on, I have to agree with Lora. She had to write something to get attention, sensible or not. I have many friends who enjoy slow, short runs. They don't write articles complaining about others who do run long and/or competitively.