March 22, 2016

A Letter To Elitists

About 1/100th of my running family

When I began running, some years ago, I was swallowed whole not only by a sport that blends well-being, fitness and adventure perfectly, but also by an amazing community of people who seemed to share values very dear to me; humility, openness, simplicity and a desire to be healthier, saner and closer to nature.

As I got fitter, I set goals for myself. I dreamed that I would maybe run a race some day, and I did. A 5K. It felt amazing. I kept looking around me, and saw people of all sizes, colors and shapes cheer each other on, share the moment and lift everyone's spirit through the sheer love of running. I couldn't believe my eyes. And I wanted more.

So I kept at it. 5K became 10, and 10 something else. And you know what? Each and every time, I had a similar experience; I shared a moment with a horde of enthusiastic, positive people who simply put their busy lives aside for a while, dressed a little funny and lined up in some park or closed-up street to be five years old again.

From streets and parks, I took to the trails and was even further impressed with the people I kept meeting. No matter how much of a newbie I was, everyone welcomed me with open hearts and introduced me to more and more people and created more and more opportunity to inspire me, up to the point that I now am a fairly seasoned ultra runner and I know hundreds of fellow trail enthusiasts the world over. And I've never been prouder to be part of such a great community.

As I'd been taught by others before me, I developed a special attention to other runners around and made sure to be always available to help out, whether by offering a little piece of advice, a word of encouragement or my last s-cap to a struggling brother or sister. The law of trail karma quickly caught up to me and I could tell you of a hundred times where others came through in the nick of time, saving my race or saying just what I needed to hear to keep moving forward.

I could write pages about dozens of pure strangers who became instant family out on the trails, and I'm proud to be considered as such by numerous others I inspired, helped or supported at one point or another. It gives me great pride to call myself a runner and to have the privilege to hang out with such a huge number of fantastic people.

I want to insist here that some of the most amazing people I met through my running are international champions, top-of-the-top elite ultra runners who often went out of their own way to help me out, cheer me on or offer some much-needed advice. Most of them I only discovered later as champions, being told by other runners or seeing their face in a magazine after we met. They were as humble, welcoming and accepting as any other person, and in there lies something tremendously powerful and immensely inspiring. Something that reminds me how important it is to be cool to each other. Something that makes me want to be a better person, every mile.

So when I read bigot posts from supposed “elite” runners who look down on anyone who runs less miles or slower times, I don't only feel anger. I feel sadness.

I am sad because the other runners they encounter won't have the chance I had to be inspired beyond words by athletes who perform amazing feats of fitness and endurance. I am sad because in a world where everyone seems to be only interested in exploiting the next person, running – and trail running in particular – has always felt like a much-needed bastion of Humanity. I am sad because these elitists don't get it, but much sadder because of the harm they cause to the people they dis and ridicule.

When I wrote “Hey, Fat Girl”, it was because I was heart-broken from hearing a beginning runner call themselves inadequate and I wanted to reach out and celebrate them. When the article snowballed and reached hundred of thousands of readers and I started receiving emails and comments every day for years from people who'd been laughed at or dismissed, I realized first-hand the amount of damage and hurt that is done daily to beginners trying very hard to set themselves on a newer, better path. And I won't accept it. And I won't stay silent.

Every time you put someone down because you judge they are not worth being in your community, you are not only being a jerk and an egoist. You are attacking their hopes and dreams of bettering themselves. You are spitting in the face of people who might look up to you in search of inspiration or a simple couple words of encouragement. You are telling them that they are not good enough and that their efforts are useless. You are bullying them away from a potential life-altering choice so immensely positive that it literally transformed the lives of millions of people, probably yours included.

So the next time you feel like someone isn't good enough to post in your online community or have the nerve to toe your starting line, I'm not asking you to welcome them with open arms. I'm not asking you to turn your judgement around and try to find something positive to offer. Hell, I'm not even asking you to change how you think.

I'm simply asking you to keep your elitism for yourself and say nothing. And if you absolutely have to take your hate, disrespect and insecurity on others, create an ultra elite group and please remember to not invite me.

Meanwhile we, the other runners of the community, will take care of the cheering on and the high-fiving, don't worry.


  1. Solide texte et propos tellement juste :) Vous avez une belle plume Mister F et le coeur à la bonne place!

  2. Thank you, Flint! We all started from somewhere....

  3. Thanks brother. We are all one. Run free!

  4. The simple Messages we all can share, are that of Acceptance, Compassion, Hope, Opportunity, Peace, Joy, Beauty, and Love. Life, is truly a magical celebration!

  5. In my second full marathon I was struggling bad around mile 16 and came around a corner to see the biggest hill on the course. A lady came up behind me, fast. Not sure why she was behind me because she was obviously much faster and not having any difficulty. She slowed down and said to me "You got this, I'll stay with you to the top". I dug down and managed to get up that hill. She stayed with me the entire time. When the course leveled out she asked if I was alright and I said I was. She told me she would see me at the finish line and away she went. I finished the race and there she was at the finishline, she grabbed a medal and put it around my neck, hugged me and congratulated me, then disappeared into the crowd. I would have never finished that race if not for her. To this day I take the lesson she taught me and pass it forward.

    1. Wow! What an awesome story, and how lucky are we to be part of such an amazing community :)

  6. The true elite runners, those of national and world class caliber, are supportive, encouraging and very engaging. It's the wanna be local yokel with the latest gizmo, shoes and kit who presents this condescending attitude. These will be the same who when they 'stop running' will continue to tell you how good they were and of their BBQ race wins.