Thursday, April 17, 2014

Are runners jocks?

Meat-heads. Gym-rats. We have a lot of words for it, but do runners fit the bill? I had to ask myself this once I realized just how much of my time and thought went into this sport. Of all my friends I'm probably the one who spends the most time working out, but is that just something I do or does it define my personality? I think there is enough evidence to take this to trial, so let's begin with the evidence against us. First to take the stand is our attire:

Prosecution: My first exhibit is the foundation of the road runner's wardrobe, the racing singlet:

This innocuous garb looks suspiciously like the tank top, the staple of the bro lifestyle!

Judge: Your point is clear. Would the defense like to cross-examine?

Defense: Yes I would, your honor. It's true that on the surface, the singlet is the same as the tank top. But the singlet serves a different purpose: for running long distance, a sleeveless shirt functions to maximize arm mobility and limit chafing, whereas the tank top is usually worn to highlight the bro's 'guns' and show off his tan.

Prosecution: Objection, your honor, the bro community is not on trial today, and the defense's accusations are entirely supposition.

Judge: Objection sustained.

Defense: My apologies, your honor, I will stick to the matter at hand.

Judge: Thank you. I think we're finished with the runner's clothing, will personal grooming now take the stand?

Prosecution: Ever since the landmark case "The People vs. Jersey Shore", it has been clear that shaving one's chest is a pillar of the GTL lifestyle. But many elite runners like Galen Rupp and Dathan Ritzenhein sport the hairless look. What reason could there be other than to identify with this community?

Defense: If I may, your honor. The purpose of shaving one's body as an athlete is to make it easier for the air to pull heat away from your body during hard workouts, keeping your body temperature from rising and therefore bolstering your performance.

Judge: Duly noted. We will now proceed with your closing arguments.

Prosecution: Ladies and gentleman of the jury. Being a jock goes beyond any one detail; we need to look at the bigger picture: spending countless hours working out, lifting weights, stretching, icing, thinking and talking about their sport condemns runners to this distinction. My grandpa used to tell me "if it looks like a horse and talks like a horse, then it is usually a horse." These facts demand you vote guilty.

Defense: As my esteemed colleague has pointed out, there are indeed many similarities between the average runner and a typical jock. Yes, they both spend considerable time devoted to their sport. But they do it not to get the attention of the peers, but rather because of an innate motivation, an inner desire to test one's limits and in so doing come to know one's self. This type of quiet, unassuming introspection clearly contrasts the loud, arrogant bravado of the jock. I urge you to vote not guilty.

Well, there are some of the arguments for and against. I think that each person will have to decide for themselves. Personally I believe that some endurance athletes definitely are jocks (Lance Armstrong comes to mind), but I don't think most runners fit into this group because of their personalities: for example, my high school cross country team was mainly the students in the A.P. classes, people who did theater, and the band kids. But we runners have enough in common with our more muscly peers that we need to be vigilant that we don't accidentally slip into that numbing abyss that is bro-dom.