How many times have you had to answer awkward questions? Too many to count?
I’ve stopped telling most people what I’m training for anymore. I’ve stopped talking about running and racing unless I’m around my running friends. Why? Because, I just can’t. I can’t answer questions anymore.
I’ve always been a “yes” man, my whole life. I’m a people pleaser by nature. Ask my parents….I was the middle kid. I was always trying to find a way to get attention, but I usually only succeeded in getting the bad kind instead of the good. I wanted my parents to be proud of me.
My older sister is off the charts intelligent. Like, scary smart. My younger brother was, well, the baby in the family. That left me in the middle.
I saw my lot in life to be the comic relief. I figured it was my job. I wanted to be likable, funny, great to be around. I needed to find my niche, so to speak. So, I was the athlete.
I swam. That was my thing. And, if I can say so, I was pretty good. I didn’t really take it all in when it was actually happening, but my parents kept all of the newspaper clippings, the magazines, my records, everything. Now, when I look back, I feel like I can pat myself on the back.
I also ran races with my Dad when I was young. We did 5k’s together for many years.
It used to be that my parents loved to hear about my accomplishments, until, well, they didn’t. Suddenly, I found myself explaining why I was doing things. Like running.
Apparently, it was ok when I was swimming. Everyone, my parents and friends, thought that it was great. Then, I started doing more running races. As long as it was 5k’s and such, it was ok.
Then, I branched out into 10k’s and longer triathlons. People started scratching their heads. What was I doing?
Half marathons appeared on my list, and my parents started asking questions. Why? Why do need to run so much? How do you answer that?
Then, I signed up for a marathon. My parents put their foot down. What was I thinking? What was I trying to prove? Then my first half Ironman….now I was certifiable. I had gone off the deep end.
So, here came the questions….After my first marathon, my mom asked, “So, are you done now?”
Done what? Running? Ummmm, no?
Another favorite I have heard many times from people is, “What are you running from?” My answer to that is simple. I’m not running away from anything, I’m running toward something.
So, I stopped talking about it. I figured that no one wanted to know. And, if I did talk about it, I would be judged. Or, maybe I was looking for approval? I don’t know.
My non-running friends couldn’t care less. 10k, Marathon, Ultra; it didn’t matter to them. They knew I ran, and they didn’t care about what the distance was or the elevation or whatever. So, we just don’t talk about it.
My parents? Well, I completely stopped telling them what I was doing. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? I know.
For instance- last fall’s big race. It was an ultra on a very difficult course. I was excited, nervous, and ready to tackle a new challenge. I wanted to prove that I could put my mind to it, and that I could succeed. I just couldn’t handle being judged. My running friends thought it was great; many of them were already signed up.
But, then there’s the inevitable “Why? What are you running from? When will it be enough?” from everyone else. I don’t know the answers to those questions. My answers would be terribly nebulous.
Sometimes, I don’t have an answer. I honestly just want to do a race because I want to. That’s it. Other runners and triathletes get it. I don’t have to explain. Instead, they say “awesome” or “cool, good luck” or “I want to do it with you”.
So, with this particular race, I waited until the night before to tell my parents it was a 50k. I texted my dad, who used to be a runner, and said something to the effect of “Dan and I are running a 50k tomorrow. Do you want me to check in at the halfway point? If not, that’s ok.” His response was what I expected. I tried to put it out of mind, so I wasn’t thinking about it the whole day of the race.
So, how do you talk to non-running friends? Or family members? Do you brush them off? Do you try to explain yourself? Or do you just not care?
I’d be interested to hear….
Run Happy. Run Long.
Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.