On Running Better -- or
-- The Better Runner by Jerry Bloom
Article by Jerry Bloom as published in the Road
Runners Club of America website
I've always thought that the runners who regularly beat me at
races were; for lack of a more eloquent phrase, just better
runners than I. As a rule these people had run longer than I,
they were disciplined in following a regimented work-out structure,
they watched their heart monitors, they watched their watches,
they watched their diet; they did all the things that make a
runner faster. After years of marveling at the speed and mechanics
of these runners (from behind) I have come to the conclusion
that they are not better runners than I am, they are only faster
runners than I am. I am not a better runner than those I regularly
beat at races, only faster than they are are.
This sort of thinking has caused me to run for hours trying
to figure out who is the better runner. Being brought up in
the American way where bigger is better; I always try to quantify
a problem to come up with a solution. It would be so easy
if faster was better; or even if further was better, I could
figure out who was better than who was that way. But it just
doesn't work. Faster is faster, further is further.
I thought that possibly the runner who goes for years without
injury might be the better runner. I know that the runner
who wears matching singlet and shorts and the runner with
the latest and greatest shiny new shoes look like the better
runner, but in truth they are usually just the richest runners.
Of course there are the elite runners who are faster and dress
the part (matching singlet and shorts, pretty shoes, even
socks with logos), but because they get clothes and other
sponsored amenities they are professional runners, not necessarily
I thought that possibly the hard working race directors,
the officers of the local running clubs, maybe even the writing
runners were the better runners because of the time and dedication
they put into running in their own way. But although all this
hard work may grant a runner fame and notoriety, it does not
make a better runner.
As I crank out the miles, my mind sometimes wanders to the
idea of who is the better runner. If it is a parameter I cannot
quantify by speed, distance, attire or service, than how can
I come up with my own subjective view as to who is the better
runner. I know there has to be a tangible answer out there
that I can find and live with.
I feel the better runner tends to get the most out of runs;
whether they are 5 or 10 min/mile pace, whether they are 5
or 20 miles long. The better runner also is the type (although
they may not live and breath running) tends to exude the runners
lifestyle with an upbeat and positive attitude toward running
and spreads this attitude wherever they go.
I don't think you can pick the better runner out at a race;
before, during or after. Nor can you pick the better runner
out at a training or social run.
There are some hints I recently have found that point to
the better runner. One of the major indicators of the better
runner is the runner who goes out for a lone Sunday long run
not to prepare for an upcoming race, not to pad the mileage
in their running log, not to get in better shape; but just
to run. Although the better runner may do intervals to cut
down on their times at races, they primarily do this speed
work to simply run better. The better runner tends to back
off on their running schedule when the threat of an injury
looms not so much from the fear of the injury but the fear
of not being able to run if the injury manifests itself.
I'm sure these runners have an occasional bad run, but never
bad thoughts about running (except maybe during a marathon
and then only from miles 20 to 22).
None of these indicators is quantifiable. I can come up with
only one way to truly pick out the better runner and it is
not by their running. The only way I can see to spot this
illusive better runner is by the people who come in contact
with him or her.
Through their own enthusiasm for running the better runner
inspires others to run. Friends of the better runner become
runners. The better runner is pretty easy to spot in the workplace
by finding a department with an extra-ordinary proportion
of runners, the better runner is usually behind this anomaly.
Wherever the better runner goes, the gospel of running is
spread and converts to the sport are made. Probably the better
runner doesn't even realize this is happening but the sport
and world are better off because of it.
It doesn't matter how fast, how far or how long they run,
what they eat or what they wear. What does matter is the better
runners loyalty and sincerity to running and to themselves,
because of this the better runner has a better time running
and in the process runs better.
Jerry Bloom is the 1996 Western Region RRCA Club Writer
of the Year.
Permission granted to redistribute, as long
as you acknowledge the author and the Road Runners Club of