A Real Runner

You know what really gets my goat? The idea of ‘real’ or ‘proper’ runners. I love running (clearly) and on the whole I love other runners – I love chatting about race stories, training techniques, achievements, development, nutrition…everything! I am a running geek. There are, however, some runners that seem intent on establishing their superiority over others, by imposing unspoken running regulations that categorise and pigeon hole you in to some sort of runners hierarchy. My view is that running is beautifully inclusive and there’s room for people at all ends of the scale – fun runners, plodders, ultra runners, racers, 10k enthusiasts – and people who try to create divisions make me very cross indeed.


Music seems to be a huge point of contention in the running community and it’s something I feel very passionate about. There are plenty of people (morons) out there who believe that running with music makes you an inferior runner. Frequent arguments include “you aren’t a proper runner if you can’t motivate yourself without music” and “you can’t focus on your breathing/technique if you’re listening to music” implying “therefore I am better as I like to listen to myself huff and puff round the park pretending I am Mo Farah”. I’ve seen a few arguments blow up on the Nike Running facebook page over their running tracks, and I’ve even had a comment on my regarding a photo of me before a race smugly asking “I hope you didn’t wear those to race in?”*.

Yes, I did. And I ran the whole way with my backpack too because I couldn’t be arsed to queue for the bag check. Shoot me.

Firstly: why do you care so much about what other people do? Do as you please and let others do the same. Who are you to decide what’s best and what isn’t? Are you the god of running? Some sort of divine authority on marathon training? No, you’re just a smug judgemental git in compression socks.

Secondly: You’re wrong. You don’t get it. Whilst music is definitely motivational (and scientifically proven to improve race times – Guardian article on the Karageorghis study here and full journal here) that’s not what it’s about. Running is a joy. Running to music is an even bigger joy. Giving your run a soundtrack gives it a whole new dimension. One minute you’re listening to M83:

And it’s epic. You’re running and you’re in slow motion, you’re in a film, you’re saving the world from natural disasters, you’re above the clouds and you are beautiful. Next minute you’re listening to Kanye:

And you’re a massive badass. Massive. HUGE. You’re giving other runners a nonchalant nod as if to say “What’s up” and you’re frowning a bit. Then that hyperactive Foals song comes on:

And you’re bouncing around like you’ve done an E, running up and down steps really fast and grinning like a maniac because this song + your endorphins = one merry marathoner.

You get my point. Running to music is a whole different experience and I’d go as far as to say that if you don’t run with music, even once in a while, you’re missing out. It’s not about ‘needing’ motivation – it’s about a whole experience. And even if someone did need the motivation, does it invalidate their miles? No. So shut up either way.

*I know it shouldn’t matter and I know there’s more to running that times, but I would like to point out that I can run 13.1 miles a solid 10 minutes faster than this commenter. WITH AND WITHOUT MY HEADPHONES.


I’m not going to pretend. For the vast majority of runners, race times will have some level of importance, from it being what their whole life is about through to having a pipe dream of maybe one day running a certain distance in or around a certain time and if it did ever ever happen they’d be chuffed as punch. Some of my fondest running memories are where I’ve bagged myself a new PB and I love that sense of achievement.

An unexpected half marathon PB in Amsterdam that I still kick myself about. No way did I actually run that fast.

The problem lies in that one person’s PB is someone else’s warm up. That in itself is not a problem. What’s a problem is when you start judging people about their times and deciding whether someone is a ‘worthy’ runner or not depending on how fast they are. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has noticeably taken more interest in me once they know I’ve run a sub 1:45 half or a sub 50 10k, or the number of times I’ve seen someone be spoken down to because their race times have clearly been deemed unimpressive.

It does not matter whether you can run a sub 3 hour marathon or a 7 hour one. I don’t care if you can recite your half marathon time in double digit minutes rather than using hours like everyone else. Your 10k was not harder, more impressive or more worthy because it took you half the time it took your mate. Everyone puts in the training and covers the same distance and everyone deserves respect for taking those miles on. As Charlie says at Run Dem, I actually have more respect for someone who has the determination to stick out 7 hours on the road than someone who flies through a marathon in 3.


Belonging to a club is cool. Running with other people and sharing running fun is rad as hell. When I run with Run Dem Crew (when grown up life isn’t ruining my vibe) it makes me happy to the point of bursting and I love the support, encouragement and motivation I get from being surrounded by my friends who run. However, belonging to a club does not make you superior. It doesn’t make you a better runner. Your vest does not validate you. Most club runners I meet are super awesome dudes who love running like I do. But to the ones who ponce about and jostle to the front at races because they’re quite clearly the fastest most important runner there…stop that. Stop that right now.

Rant over. Please do share if you’ve got anything to add, any anecdotes about running snobbery or if you disagree entirely and think I’m a plonker.