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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 better runners.

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 America.


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