by Benita Zahn
Perhaps it’s the rancor on Capitol Hill that’s got me thinking about Facebook. You know, the running pages, triathlon pages, biking pages. For the most part they are lovely landing spots to look at pictures and enjoy celebrations. But they are often a place to vent personal woes. Ok. I get it. We all need a community to support us through the tough times and I applaud anyone who is confident enough to reach out and those confident enough to provide that support. What I don’t get are the mean -spirited responses when someone asks for help. We’ve all read the snarky comments when someone goes off the rails with their training, eating, sleeping or a race doesn’t go as hoped. I’m asking all to check the anger at the door and approach the keyboard with a healthy dose of I’M HERE FOR YOU. In short, let’s be nice and share advice to empower others.
Frankly, I’m mystified as to why someone would want to shame another, especially in the running community. It’s a community filled with experience, and experience is the best teacher, or as Julius Caesar put it, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” So, what have you experienced that you can share with a new runner – or a runner who has stumbled – or a runner who feels insecure about running a new distance or with a new group?
I recently spoke with a new runner who was struggling with insecurity over joining an organized running group because they feared they couldn’t keep up. So, I shared a personal story. Many years ago when I was just starting to run marathons, I would lie awake at night fretting over the long weekend run. I was running with a delightful group of people who had many marathons under their belts. Not only were they seasoned at this distance they were, by and large, faster than me. One day as we made the turn for home around mile 7, I mentioned my fear to a fellow runner, a kindly man who had hung back with me. “I so fret about these runs,” I confessed. He looked at me puzzled and asked, “Why? And then he spoke the words that changed my perspective: “It’s only running and we’re all aiming for the same goal, to cross the finish line.” It was like he’d waved a magic wand and my angst dissipated. Bottom line: we ARE all in this together. Let’s lift each other up. You know the old adage, the gift is in the giving.
Perhaps on your holiday gift list is the gift of encouragement to a new runner in your group or someone you know who’s talked about running but hasn’t taken that first step to get out of the house. Help them. Reach out. Offer to run with them at their pace, or better yet, to walk with them first so they get comfy ‘in their shoes’. This simple kindness can build security and may be the first block in a bridge to a new friendship. And if you’ve seen your times slow recently, or have lingering injuries, you may need a break from a demanding training schedule. Dial it back and open your door to that new runner, the one who’s hesitant to hit the road. You can find the joy in the endeavor, together.
I’ve taken my own advice to chill. These days my regular running pal and I are on a running pause. Last year we completed 2 RUN NY challenges along with a few, shorter virtual races. Logging all those miles began to feel like a job. Recognizing we’re tired, physically and mentally, we chose to recharge. For the past 3 weeks we’ve been powerwalking in place of our runs. This respite has paid off, as we’re both refreshed and looking forward to the end of our self- imposed moratorium.
One more thing – remember it’s “only running.” We do this because we love the feeling of motion, of pushing ourselves, and the camaraderie. In short, unless you ARE doing this for a living, it should be fun. So don’t be afraid to be a little silly along the miles. Run and sing out loud. Run in a silly hat. Run a few steps backwards. While backwards running may look silly, research shows it helps with posture, strengthens your abs, and battles boredom.
So if you see two gals running backwards, singing out loud, encouraging another runner to join in – please do! New friendships bloom when least expected.
Benita spent 41 years reporting and anchoring the news at WNYT Newschannel 13. Her focus was health and she continues hosting and producing HEALTH BEAT, a bi-weekly health program on WNYT.COM.
Benita's completed countless 5k and 10k races and a handful of 15k races and half marathons. She's also completed 5 marathons including Boston, NYC, Cape Cod and San Diego and competed in a handful of triathlons.
Benita holds a masters and doctorate in bioethics from Albany Medical College. She earned her certification in Health and Wellness coaching from WELLCOACHES in June 2021 and sees clients at Capital Cardiology - although you don't have to be a patient to be a client.
When she's not working or running Benita is a proud member of Actors Equity Association and enjoys performing at local theaters.