Thursday, October 6, 2016

It's my race, and I'll cry if I want to

#ThrowbackThursday: With the annual Delco RRC Cross Country Championships this weekend, it seems appropriate to republish this column, which originally ran December 1993 in the Road Runners Club newsletter. 

Some people get more out of running than others. Devotees go on at length about the many advantages, both physical and mental. A few even talk about a spiritual side of running. But you don't often hear about the crying.

I don't know whether crying makes you run faster or if it just takes your mind off the mindless repetition of left-right-left-right-left-right. I've never tried the crying technique because I've had such success with my "bitching and moaning" training program (where you run while complaining about everything and anything.)

I was first introduced to crying runs a few years back at the annual Delco RRC Cross Country Championships at Rose Tree Park. Each year, I've seen the number of disciples grow until this year it reached a new high.

I'd like to avoid saying that crying is gender based, but so far only the high school girls have been spotted sobbing their way through the 5K course. (The boys have their own idiosyncrasies: I've heard cursing in cadence and seen far too many "recycled" lunches.)

Not all the girls cry on the course, just a few. But those few are so good at it, it's like watching a new art form emerge. When they go by, you don't know whether to offer a tissue or applaud the effort.

I hope you don't get the impression that I'm hard-hearted or cruel. I do my duty as course marshal and make sure the runners are all right. But you have to stand in awe of a physically fit, well-built junior at the back of the pack who can crank up the decibels every time her male team members cheer her onward. That's what got me thinking this was more a theatrical performance than a physical phenomenon. 

It also reminded me of my 18-month-old nephew who only likes to cry when he knows people are watching. He'll screw up his face, let out a few howls, take a few deep breaths, and then peek to see if he's got your attention.

One of the reasons I'm attracted to running is that anything goes. You can wear what you want, run when and where you want, and there's no single form that's right for everyone. So, if crying helps some people to run better, who am I to question? And if it becomes a trend, just remember where you heard it first.

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