Join us again in the What Would Another Mother Runner Do corner. This time, the topic is running friends who aren’t as helpful as they think.
Our mother runner (who would prefer to remain anonymous) writes:
I was running with friends today and made an active choice to stay a little uncomfortable (versus backing off the minute things got at all hard, which is what I tend to do when I get stuck in my head). I ended up staying in the zone for the full 30 minutes and beat my time on the same route by over 2 minutes compared to last month. I was internally basking in my personal success when a friend commented "you really should smile more when you run.” I explained to her that I was focused on staying focused and I was proud I had done it. She just kept going back to "you need to smile" and "you looked miserable.” I'm the first one to agree that running should be fun and I usually have a big smile on my face when running but today wasn't about fun. I ended up walking away from her so I wouldn't say anything I'd regret — but she took the wind out of my sails. I can’t help but remember that she is one of the only two people who have questioned me running an ultra. How do you deal with less than supportive people in your life?
What would you do?
Dimity says: Argh. I hate situations like this--and I always wish I had an immediate witty comeback, but never seem to. Ms. Pushy McSmile seems to have some boundary and listening issues. They are HER issues, not your's; even if you had the perfect comeback or sat her down and had a heart-to-heart, my guess is that your words wouldn't stick. So I would do my best to steer clear. Don't position yourself next to her during a run, and don't stand close to her for the post-run gab fest. And if she questions your ability to do the ultra again, I'd say something direct like, "I totally believe I can go the distance, and I'd love your support, too. If that's too much, then I'd prefer you keep your thoughts to yourself." Hopefully that will shut things down. (And FWIW, I never look happy when I run. I have to consciously smile when I see a camera in a race.)
Sarah says: I realize there's a bigger question here, but the part that really hit home with me as, ever since I was a teen, I've had people telling me I need to smile more. Even as a teen, such comments infuriated me! My countenance doesn't always indicate my emotions. In a liberated world, we can't let anyone tell us how we "should" look (or act). Our bodies; our selves.
And it sounds to me that you derived a great deal of joy--and pride--from pushing past your typical pain point. (Which I applaud you for!) When taking on a great challenge, like you are with your upcoming ultra, you need to feel supported. I think you need to tell your friend that her comments stung you and gave you pause. If she can listen to you with an open mind and heart, and she seems capable of offering you support after the (difficult) conversation, then put the incident behind you. But if she doesn't seem to appreciate your perspective and understand why her words hurt you, I think you need to steer clear of her until after the ultra.
Best of luck with your race: I think it sounds like you are preparing beautifully (whatever the look on your face)!
What would you have done? And do you have your own What Would Another Mother Runner Do dilemma?