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Out There: A Difference of Opinion

“Different” does not automatically mean “wrong.”

Are maximalist shoes awesome or overpriced crap?

Is the paleo diet a good idea?

Should we allow dopers back into competition after serving a temporary ban?

Carbohydrates: divine or devlish?

Are planned walk breaks during a race smart or for sissies?

Should we tighten the cutoff times for marathons?

Can fun-run finishers be called “real” runners?

What is a “real” runner, anyway?

Want to liven up your day? Ask any one of these questions to a group of runners.

When I first started in the sport, I didn’t have much of an opinion on run-related topics. I mainly kept to myself at group runs, only chiming in to answer the important questions, like “Does anyone need to stop for a pee break?” (yes) or “Do you want to grab donuts after this?” (also yes).

My silence wasn’t the result of apathy, but of ignorance. I simply didn’t know the names of any professional runners, let alone who I thought would win the Boston Marathon. I only had one pair of shoes, and the only thing I could tell you for certain was that they were blue and had laces. Maximalist? Heel-toe drop? Might as well have been speaking Farsi.

But as the miles began to accumulate, I learned things. Once I learned things, I had opinions. When I shared those opinions…well, I was quickly informed that I was wrong.

To be fair, though, everyone in the group was also wrong. Even today, every one of my running groups at some point becomes an animated, finger-pointing parade of eye rolls and one-upmanship in our individual pursuits to convert the rest of the group to our way of thinking. Whether we’re discussing if someone should do a downhill course to qualify for Boston or debating the best ingredients for a recovery smoothie, we’ve each got opinions, and they’re all wildly different.

For something done by millions of people, running is a distinctively individual thing. You likely won’t find two runners with identical preferences – some like the trails, while others hit the treadmill; some run for weight loss, while others do it because it’s the only hour of the day they don’t have to answer to a boss or kids; barefoot runners pass maximalist runners, and maximalist runners sometimes get schooled by grandmas in Keds.

If there’s one thing these runners have in common, it’s opinions. Don’t believe me? Log onto a public Facebook page and share your opinion of vegan runners. Or Crossfit as cross-training. Or whether runners should run in the bike lane. Or any of the hundred billion other things people vehemently and violently disagree on. Read the responses of others, some of which are likely to be the exact opposite of yours.

With so many opinions, which one is the right one? All of them and none of them. A different opinion does not necessarily mean it’s a wrong opinion.

RELATED: Out There: Choosing Kindness

What works for one runner won’t work for another. But because we’re so entrenched in the idea of being “right” and “wrong,” most of us are quick to dismiss perspectives or approaches other than what we already know to be a fact —which, let’s be honest, is usually nothing more than a strong opinion. Yelling something loudly does not make it indisputable.

It’s hard to break the habit of being “right” all the time. If you’re able to, you’re in a small, small minority that I freely admit I’m not always a member of. Even the best of us aren’t above occasional, annoying know-it-all moments when someone says she’s trying the Diet du Jour or when a running partner shows up donning the latest manifestation of Expensive Snake Oil™.

Still, bite your tongue. Give your fellow runners some consideration. There’s a pretty good chance that they didn’t just make up their opinion on the spot without any thought put into it, nor did they just blindly adopt someone else’s belief. That consideration costs you nothing except the humility of admitting that other people are entitled to their beliefs and opinions too.

Still, if you find yourself veering dangerously into the territory of “You’re wrong, and let me tell you how wrong you are,” just smile and ask if anyone wants to grab donuts after the run.

Seriously, it’s 100 percent fact that donuts are awesome.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke