Nov 22

Running in Traffic: What The Wall Street Journal Got Right

Wall Street JournalThere is an opinion piece that ran over at The Wall Street Journal that has caused more chaffing in the running world than attempting an ultra-marathon in a cotton sweatshirt.  In the piece, “cleverly” titled “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It.”, a gentleman by the name of Chad Stafko shares his take on people who enjoy running recreationally and his belief that most of those runners run only for attention.  In fact, his thesis is fairly simple, “What’s with this infatuation with running and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?”

As someone who just completed his first marathon, though you’d never know by the absence of the window sticker that clearly haunts Mr. Stafko’s dreams, my first instinct was to try to put together some deep emotional rebuttal in an effort to sway the author and like-minded readers to change their minds and embrace running and, more importantly, runners.  I knew in my heart that runners aren’t like the picture that Mr. Stafko is painting and, if I could just bend his ear, I could make him see it.

I read and re-read the piece.

I took notes and I did research.

I went back and forth about exactly what I wanted to say to set the record straight.

What could I say to make Mr. Stafko see that most runners aren’t like that?  It’s not the athletic equivalent of a selfie.  It wasn’t an attempt to shine a spotlight on myself.  It isn’t a 26.2 mile cry for attention.

Then it hit me.

With all due respect to Mr. Stafko… I was dealing with a hypocrite.

For all of the blogs and running sites that have been taking this article to task this week, most of them missed the most important piece.  This behavior.  This “look-at-me desire” that the writer is rallying against, is the exact same tactic he’s employing.  I seriously doubt Mr. Stafko REALLY feels this strongly about running and runners.  In fact, he references friends who are runners quite often.  I find it hard to believe that he is honestly this put-off by his friends’ behavior.  He doesn’t really think that most runners are like that.  The truth is, it’s this article and the soapbox from which it is shouted that is really engaging in the behavior that he is lambasting.

Take a topic with a vocal following like runners.

Take an elementary stance.

Sprinkle in some superlatives.


Clicks, Comments and Linkbacks – The Triple Crown of writing for the web.

This wasn’t about runners.  This was about traffic.  And not the kind that we cause when we close down a street for a Sunday morning event.

Mr. Stafko very passive aggressively says that “people want attention and crave appreciation”.  Done and done, Sir.  You got the attention you were looking for and no actual runners were harmed in the making of your piece.

This article wasn’t about running… it was about traffic.

I don’t begrudge him that just as I honestly believe he doesn’t really care that much about window stickers, running gear and 5K T-Shirts.

But… just in case…

If it is TRULY how he feels.  If he’s really that angry.  I’d challenge him… or anyone… to actually attend an event and still come away honestly thinking that most of the people are there for selfish, self-aggrandizing reasons.

Running is for me… not about me.

My motivation is not to give others the opportunity to look at me… it’s to give me time to look at myself.

We’re not that different, Mr. Stafko.  We’re both running toward traffic and rely on it to pay attention to where we are.  My shorts are just shorter.


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