July 19 2018
Professor Jennifer Golbeck uses running to balance a full roster of work, travel and her pack of famous pups.
One definitive benefit of being a runner is that it is a great conversation starter. Once people see your t-shirt from a recent race or hear about your daily training schedule, they have the golden ticket. They know what they can talk about with you. And let’s face it: most of us love to talk about our running.
I can, in fact, drone on about a recent workout for a good five minutes before tactfully realizing no one’s listening. I’ll rant about running injuries or nutrition. I’ll even offer up my rationale for running shoe preferences.
But I have a very important message from all those non-running acquaintances out there: I am more than just a runner.
I appreciate the offhand “did you still run outside in this weather” question, but when you constantly fall back on that, it deflates me. I diligently work on achieving balance in my life. Yes, I absolutely love to run, but I also love to write and travel and pet puppies. Running is not my identity any more than a job or relationship would be for you. When you don’t attempt to find any point of conversation with me other than my running, it works against those efforts. It says, in a nutshell: I’m just a runner.
I’m not saying that I dislike the interest. I find it thoughtful, to tell the truth. But if it’s not stemming from a deeper interest in me as a person, it comes across as shallow.
So yes, please ask about my running. Ask how my training is and what my next race is and how I’m staying motivated. I’ll gladly tell you. I’ll also gladly tell you about my motivations to run—my faith, my love of adventure and my family. You can learn more about who I truly am.
In turn, I’ll stop pegging you as “the coworker who likes giraffes” or “the neighbor who gardens.” I realize that, although you love petunias, there’s probably more to your hopes and dreams; and if I’m asking for a better connection, I must also seek one. Ultimately, I find that life, like running, is best lived with intentionality. So if you’re truly interested in my training regimen, let’s discuss it. But let’s not forget that there is a wider scope of interests and when we both pursue those, we will create deeper and lasting connections.