Even though over 500,000 people complete a marathon in the United States each year—not to mention the millions who run shorter distances like 5ks—there is still a lot of confusion about the sport of running.
Good runners are thought to be innately gifted; the competitions are considered boring to watch (or impossible to find on TV); and even diehards sometimes give the impression that running is, at its best, a really hard but necessary chore used only to stay fit.
It's time to clear up these misconceptions. This guide will debunk some of the the myths about running so you can enjoy the sport more—both as a participant and as a spectator.
1. Running Isn’t Fun to Watch
This is probably one of the most pervasive myths about long distance running. After all, there must be a reason you don’t see the New York City Marathon or the latest track race on ESPN, right?
But actually, if you move beyond the ball-crazy borders of the United States, you will find that competitive running is an incredibly popular spectator sport, attracting media attention parallel to that of football or baseball in America.
Running uniquely combines two competitions in one: the race against the clock and the race against other competitors. In every event—whether it’s the local 5k or the Olympic 1500m—runners fight to reach a single finish line in record time. And in the process of reaching the tape, there is strategy, rivalry, drama, and feats of shocking athleticism that rival any NFL game.
2. You Need Talent to Be Good
In running, talent is defined as the ability to work hard. There are always theories about the benefits of being born at altitude, innate body type, or just the ever ambiguous “natural abilities,” but in reality, long distance endurance events reward those who put in the training.
3. I’m Too [Fill in the Blank] to Run Fast
Many people think that to be good at running you must have a certain body type. But for every rule (shorter is better) there is an exception (Paula Radcliffe). People of all shapes and sizes excel in the sport, and for every 10 different race winners, you will almost certainly find 10 different physiques.
American record holder
Of course, certain physical attributes do contribute to fast running: low body fat, high leg-to-trunk ratio, and generally sound structure and alignment which will help stave off injury. However, low body fat is usually a natural consequence of running more, anyway; and a good chiropractor or sports doctor will correct any alignment concerns.
As for the long legs? Well, there’s nothing you can do about naturally stubby (cute?) legs but accept and run the heck out of them.
4. Good Runners Are Neurotic
While there is some truth to this myth—you have to have a certain level of masochism to train at a high level for an endurance event—it is also a broad and inaccurate generalization of the running community.
More frequently you may find that the best runners tend to be those that set high standards for themselves and their performances. But every athlete accomplishes those goals differently. Some do get up at 5:00 am to train diligently with their heart rate monitors, but others roll out of bed at 11:00 am (perhaps after a late night out on the town) to get in the miles.
5. There is No Way to Watch Running Events
As mentioned in Myth #1, it can be difficult to find running events on television. But if there is a big race or meet coming up, check out the following sources for coverage:
- Cable Television: Many of the more obscure TV channels broadcast running competitions. Some of the larger NCAA conferences (Big 10, Pac 10, Big 12) even have their own channels, which will almost always show the track and cross-country conference championships.
Some other channels to keep an eye out for include: MSNBC, Versus, USA, ESPN (yes, it’s true), ESPN 2, and FOX Sports.
- Live Feed Online: Almost every big race now has a live feed that broadcasts the competition from start to finish, which they then archive so you can watch the entire race afterwards at your leisure. If the race itself does not have broadcasting capabilities, they will usually point you towards an outside website that is covering the event.
6. Running Hurts
Running can of course be painful and getting out the door for a run is sometimes the last thing you want to do. But keep in mind that the more fit you are, the less running will hurt.
That’s not to say that those quick people rushing by enjoy every minute of their training and racing—it’s just that they have a base of fitness that makes certain running paces feel, well, easy. Mixing in fun recovery days with more difficult workouts will not only get you in better shape, it will also make running itself more enjoyable on a day-to-day basis.
Get to Know the Running Community
In the end, there are no real stereotypes or generalizations that fit a group of people as large as the running community. If you approach running with an open mind and seek to find others in your running community, you are bound to have a good time.