Here’s a topic I’ve been wanting to address for a while lately: apologies. Specifically, women, apologies, and exercise. It’s something I’ve danced around a bit, especially when I’ve posted about group running, but not something I’ve had a chance to address directly yet. Until now!
(How ominous is that introduction? I hope very, because this post isn’t meant to be ominous at all and I think some incongruity is in order.)
For the longest time, I refused to run with a group or a partner with any kind of regularity. It always felt so uncomfortable to me, and no matter what, it seemed like every run would start the same way: “Oh, just so you know, I’m slow, so feel free to run ahead of me or leave me behind or whatever. I don’t want to hold you up.” (this would be said by at least one person, often me) Which would be followed by: “Oh my gosh, no, I’m totally slower, so don’t even worry about it! If anything, you’ll be passing me!” Things could go back and forth like this for a long time, each person (well, woman) trying to out-do the other in how slow or pathetic they were as a runner. Not only was it always totally awkward, it was also always totally useless. It’s another one of those things that women get socialized to do: don’t ever state that you’re good at something; be as self-effacing as possible; and if you think you might either be better than someone at something, or significantly worse to the point where you’re inconveniencing them, then by all means apologize.
It wasn’t until I started running with my LUNAChix group that I decided that the whole I’m-slower-than-you ritual had to stop. I don’t know what it was exactly that pushed me to draw the line and kick the habit, but there were definitely a few contributing factors, including the fact that 1) I’d never heard men do it; 2) I was getting sick of hearing myself do it; 3) I just wanted to start feeling better about my running, part of which had to entail not going into every group running situation and starting off by saying what a bad runner I was. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re constantly putting yourself down. And thus in the same way that I’ve stopped “having fat days“, I’ve stopped apologizing for how I run.
Without meaning to sound preachy, I think this is something that all women runners should do. When the urge comes up to explain that you’re “slow” and you don’t want to “hold anyone up”, think about the fact that these are other people who have voluntarily come to a group run and must understand that not everyone there will be able to run at the same pace. I know that when I’m doing a group run, a big part of the reason I’m there is to enjoy the company and have a good time. I don’t care if I end up running slower because of it. I’ve still gotten my mileage in, and I’ve also had time to catch up with friends or make new ones. If I want to run faster, I can do it another time. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s what other runners can do too. If that’s a problem for them, well, it’s not my fault. So I won’t apologize–I’m not sorry.