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Out There: Enough With The Selfies

Susan Lacke has a bone to pick with selfie-taking endurance athletes.

Susan Lacke has a bone to pick with selfie-taking endurance athletes.

I make fun of endurance athletes out of love. I am an awkward hugger and give compliments that would only flatter Napoleon Dynamite, so I choose to show my affection through headlocks and good-natured teasing, like my big brother did to me when I was a kid.

But not today. Today, I’m giving endurance athletes an ass kicking, because they deserve it (also like my big brother did to me when I was a kid). So sit down, shut up and pay attention or I’ll put you in a headlock:

You guys, you’ve got to knock it off with the workout selfies.

Last weekend, I was running alongside one of my favorite roads when sidewalk debris forced me to temporarily run against traffic in the bike lane. As I saw an oncoming triathlete a few hundred yards away, I hugged the curb with my trainers, allowing my legs to barely brush the overgrown thicket lining the road. I smiled and waved with a sing-songy, “Hey!”

The rider continued on with his head forward and arms outstretched in his aero bars, seriously focused on his intense interval. I sang out again, louder this time: “Hello!”

With mere yards to spare and no sign of the cyclist slowing down, I went the only direction I could go: into the thicket.

As I yelped in pain at the thorns and branches scratching my legs, the cyclist rode on past me. It was then that I realized that he wasn’t looking down at the road at the traffic ahead. He was smiling, not serious. He wasn’t even down in his aerobars.

He was taking a selfie.

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“Are you freaking kidding me?” I yelled out, stunning the cyclist out of his mobile Olan Mills shoot. As he rode off, I saw him quickly stuff his cell phone back into jersey pocket.

With scratched legs and abundant rage, I relayed my selfie-attack to my friends at a post-run breakfast. Immediately, a chorus of groans echoed through the bagel shop:

“I once collided with someone who came to a full stop in the middle of a race. She didn’t slow down or move to the side—just stopped in the middle of the road, camera out and duckface on.”

“I know a guy who posts a selfie during every bike ride. No details about the ride, just a shot of his face. Same expression, same blue sky, same helmet. I’m not entirely convinced he doesn’t just recycle the same photo every day.”

“I once ran with a girl who made me take a picture of her in the middle of our workout. After she asked me to retake the photo for the third time, this time from a higher angle, because she ‘looked weird and fat in that one,’ I handed her the phone and took a different trail. I wanted to run, not play LA Models.”

Naturally, the conversation led to us searching for bad workout selfies online, which ended with two very important questions:

1. What the hell is wrong with people?

2. No, seriously. What’s wrong with people?

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At some point, the “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality spilled over from its original intention (“Dude, I don’t believe you actually met Galen Rupp! Pics or it didn’t happen!) to a pervasive, insatiable urge to document every moment of our lives—even the uninteresting ones. It’s no longer enough to be proud of a tough track workout, long ride or 100 squats; we need people to Like it, preferably as it’s happening.

What happened to the days when pictures only captured special moments, like the birth of a child, an ecstatic finish-line crossing or your drunk best friend doing something dumb with a potted plant?

I know, I know—this makes me sound like I’m a cane and a glass of prune juice away from yelling at kids to get off my lawn. My teenaged stepdaughter, who takes more selfies than the entire Kardashian family, has told me this many times. But at least she selfies while stationary. The day I see a selfie of her while riding a bike—or, worse, while driving—is the day her phone takes a year-long sabbatical in my lockbox.

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Though texting and driving is a much bigger, much more serious problem, that doesn’t excuse the smartphone in your hand while riding or running. If there are selfies of you mid-ride in your news feed, you lose your right to complain about motorists who text and drive. It’s hypocritical. A phone is a distraction, whether you’re on four wheels, two wheels or two feet.

Just put the phone away. The next time I see a rider or runner taking a selfie while in motion, I’m not jumping into the thicket to get out of the way.

My big brother taught me a few moves, and I’m not afraid to use them.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke