In Stride

Running Mirth: The Good, the Bad, the Stafko

A moment of perspective on our weird sport: Let's talk about people talking about running

Running Mirth: The Good, the Bad, the Stafko

Easy to ridicule, easy to love. Photo: iStock

As is the case with most things, part of maintaining a healthy attitude towards running is to not take it too seriously all of the time. In an age of hyper-specialized training plans and running shorts that provide live feedback on your stride technique, it can be easy to forget that a little bit of levity goes a long way. With that in mind, we’ve searched the Internet to find a few clever, and not so clever, articles and videos that ridicule the sport we love. Enjoy! 

That Stafko Essay

Remember this? A couple years ago, Chad Stafko published a diatribe in the Wall Street Journal which criticized the way runners peacock their accomplishments with “26.2” bumper stickers and garish race attire. “What’s with this infatuation with running and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?” Stafko asks. Unfortunately, as far as intelligent putdowns go, Stafko is no P.G. Wodehouse. After acknowledging the popularity of the sport, he appears baffled that running specialty stores and enthusiast magazines exist at all, as if the real mystery here were not why people voluntarily run 26 miles, but the market economy itself. But at least he did succeed in pissing off a good portion of the running community. Angry replies to “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It” abounded. Why so runners many felt it necessary to respond to a less-than-devastating attack on their passion is beyond me, but it produced some hilarious articles. 

The best is Mark Remy’s line-by-line translation of Stafko’s essay: 

“A few days ago, one of these running friends said, after describing a recent run: ‘Why do I keep doing this?’ I have no idea.” TRANSLATION: I don’t understand irony.

The Silent Minority

For a more on-point sendup of those “preening” runners, I suggest this short gem from the folks at Above Average about the first person to run a marathon without telling anyone about it. “Why would I have talked about something that’s not interesting to anyone else?” she asks. Brilliant.

Against Exercise

Running gets let off pretty easy in Mark Greif’s polemic “Against Exercise,” which he published in N+1. The principal target of Greif’s attack is modern gym culture and the way it promotes a tendency to (mis)spend “the better portion of our lives in life-preservation,” where the human body itself becomes like one of those sterile exercise machines that require constant Sisyphean maintenance. Gyms are alternately likened to “voluntary hospitals,” “mirrored and pungent hangars,” and (my favorite) “well-ordered masturbatoriums.” While much of his essay centers on the bizarre spectacle of “working out,” Greif does take a moment to lament running as an aggressive invasion of public places:

“Running is most insidious because of its way of taking proselytizing out of the gym. It is a direct invasion of public space . . . With his speed and narcissistic intensity the runner corrupts the space of walking, thinking, talking, and everyday contact . . . The runner can oppose sociability and solitude by publicly sweating on them.”

What Are You Running From?

It would just be wrong of us to publish an article lampooning the sport of running without including something from the masters of satire at The Onion. This clip should speak to all of those who, in a moment of self-reflection, wonder what compelled them to get up at 5 a.m. and crank out a ten-miler in the freezing rain before work. 

Filed To: Media, Video, Running, Culture

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