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Fraioli: We’re Runners. And Proud Of It.

Senior editor Mario Fraioli responds to Chad Stafko's recent column in the Wall Street Journal.

Hey Chad,

Good news. I read your article in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday and I just so happen to have one of those cool new 0.0 oval bumper stickers for you kicking around the office. It’s yours if you want it, and since you seem to have accomplished exactly nothing by ripping on the 15.5 million or so people who have finished a running event in this country, I think it’d be a perfect fit for the back of your car.

I’ll do you one better, however, and offer to buy you a pair of running shoes instead. Since there’s a running specialty store less than 15 miles from your house — and many others within a 30-mile radius of Freeburg, Ill. — this will be an easy task. Simply go to the store, tell them you want to start running and they’ll take care of the rest. In a recovering economy, I am more than happy to support a thriving store that’s been in business for several years and is making a positive impact on the members of its local community by encouraging them to adopt an active, healthy lifestyle and providing them with the top-of-the-line shoes and gear they need to embark on their journey. Please, go get a professional shoe fitting, along with all the information and encouragement you need to get started, and send me the bill. While you’re at it, sign up for a race (I’ll cover that fee, too) so you have something to work toward down the road, which will hopefully keep you from making uninformed opinions about people and an activity you clearly know little to nothing about. And, since I happen to be an editor at one of the largest running magazines in the U.S., I’ll hook you up with a year’s worth of free issues to keep you informed, inspired and entertained along the way. Today is your lucky day, dude!

Whether you choose to take me up on this offer is totally your call, but I promise no one will judge you if you paste a 3.1 sticker on the back of your car after your first race, or post daily pictures of your runs to your Instagram account or Facebook page. Heck, I’m not ashamed to admit I post photos of nearly all my runs these days to one of any number of social media channels (I hope you’re not squirming as you read this), but that’s my choice. Not everyone I run with does the same, and that’s OK. I do it not for attention, as your theory seems to suggest, but because I know it will encourage and inspire someone else to explore new horizons, run a little further, push a bit harder, or simply recommit to making running a part of his or her life again. Seriously, give it a try. You might even catch the eye of someone who sees a little of themselves in you and motivate them to take up running, lose a few pounds or tackle a tall task they previously thought to be impossible. How cool would that be?

Let’s be honest: Running is a selfish endeavor — we all have our own reasons for getting out the door — but it’s also one of the largest, most encouraging and supportive communities of people you’ll ever meet. I welcome — and encourage — you to be a part of it, rather than rail on a bunch of people who are doing something positive for themselves, and more often than not, for other people and the communities they call home.

On that note, did you happen to catch the response of the running community after the Boston Marathon bombings this past spring? In case you missed it, millions of runners from around the world came together in a showing of solidarity and used running as a platform to raise millions of dollars to help the unfortunate victims of that terrible tragedy. Imagine that: runners, of all the seemingly self-absorbed people on this planet, many of whom run races, read running magazines, shop at local stores, have bumper stickers on their cars and take pictures of themselves that they post on social media, came together to help people in need. This fact must be blowing your narrow mind.

So why do we do run? This is a question with as many different answers as there are runners. Not everyone who runs participates in races, but for the 15.5 million who do, crossing the finish line means something — which is why I’d like for you to experience it for yourself sometime. It’s a special moment for many people, life-changing for some, whether they’re completing a 5K for the first time or setting a personal best in the marathon.

Most of us, however, run for the simple joy of it. Others run to escape pain. We run to spend some time alone one day and to share the experience with others the next. We run to push ourselves (or one another) and test limits, or sometimes just to relax when we’re stressed out. We run to think through a problem or, in some cases, to shut off our brains altogether. We run to inspire others, never to discourage them. Some of us, like your friend, have no idea why we run. We just do. It’s part of who we are.

Contrary to your theory, rare is the runner who heads out the door (or hops on the treadmill in their desolate basement) just to bring attention to him or herself. That said, I do want to be highly visible when I’m running down a dark road at 5 a.m., which is why the flashy apparel you so despise exists, but only because I don’t want to end up on the hood of an oncoming car. Other than that, I couldn’t care less if anyone sees me doing what I do every day, but if someone happens to catch a glimpse of me running down the street and it inspires them to get off the couch, then that’s a nice byproduct of my daily toil. And while I can’t speak for everyone, almost every runner I know would tell you the same thing.

So, for someone who is apparently appalled by the “look at me” attitude of runners, you did a hell of job attracting attention to yourself with your most recent column. Nice work. I hope you are patting yourself on the back with every response.

We are runners, and proud of it. Please consider joining us sometime. If you’d rather not, just shoot me your mailing address and I’ll send you your new favorite bumper sticker.

Mario Fraioli

Senior Editor, Competitor magazine