5Ks are better than marathons.
Marathons are better than 5Ks.
Ultras are better than all of the above.
Fast is better than slow.
Slow is better than fast.
Roads are better than trails.
Trails are better than roads.
Shoes are better than bare feet.
Bare feet are better than shod.
Skirts are better than shorts.
Kilts are better than skirts.
Coke is better than Pepsi.
Western NC barbecue is better than Eastern.
Pork is better than beef.
And so on.
Who is the ultimate arbiter of “better”? In that list up there, who’s to say what’s better, or even best? They’re just different. Like our preferences. For instance, while I certainly prefer running trails to pavement, I find enjoyment in the merits and challenges of both environments. Though I prefer Pepsi, I’ll gladly accept a Coke, especially after a long run. And I will devour in short order any regional smoked meat you sling in my direction.
Actually, one thing is better. Getting off our butts and being active is better than wallowing on the couch and prematurely growing old and decrepit and a burden on our loved ones.
I’m only 45 years old—ancient to some, still a veritable child to others—pretty much smack in the middle years. But as our grannies said, when I was a kid… No, seriously, when I was kid on the south side of Milwaukee, we ran around the neighborhood all day, unattended by helicopter parents, and didn’t stop till our moms called us in for dinner. When we weren’t in school, we were running, sweating, panting, making up spontaneous games, getting dirty—and it was normal. Staying inside all day was weird and totally boring.
In just a few generations, that all went away. Just try getting a 10-year-old to run and play on her own for more than 10 minutes. Most kids no longer know what it feels like to sweat and pant and feel their heart pound. It freaks them out and makes them quit. This is the fruit of our good intentions. Protecting kids from bogeymen, shuttling them to classes and team sports where they’re told how to play, constructing neighborhoods without sidewalks or parks—we’ve created a populace of sedentary people with a million reasons to stay inside on the couch. That is really, really weird!
It’s important as the few surviving active adults to be encouraging, positive role models, not only for our layabout kids, but also for adults who’ve convinced themselves that they’ll never be active or fit again. This means accepting the different ways people enjoy being active. As runners, it means being cool with the myriad reasons people run and the countless ways to find enjoyment through the miles.
We’re all in this running life together. Let’s make it a good one.
And if all else fails, check out this rat clutching a tiny teddy bear!