Writing and running in Austin, TX.
Something funny has happened since I started working at Rogue. I’ve gotten a whole lot…cooler.
If I walk around Austin in my “Rogue Coach” jacket, random people want to talk to me. Heck, if I walk into Rogue wearing something official-looking, people who would (and do) ignore me in plain clothes suddenly want to shoot the shit like I’m someone important.
Why? There’s something undeniably cool about working in the running industry.
I know, because when I was “just” a normal runner, it seemed unattainably glamorous. I used to dream that someone from Runner’s World or Running Times would happen upon my blog and decide to up and offer me a job.
It was your standard Confucian fantasy:
Like all fantasies, the reality has turned out a bit different. (You may have guessed this from some of my previous posts.)
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still hugely grateful to have ended up here! Believe you me, saying, “I work in a running store” gets a lot more traction at dinner parties than, “I write help for software”.
I absolutely would not change any of the decisions I made to get here.
But I WILL tell you what it’s really like to work in this dream job. Because in THIS dream job, I have one, teeny-tiny problem: I’m still just a normal runner.
And that is decidedly NOT NORMAL in my new world.
Let me start with an anecdote. A runner I coach also happened to more-or-less stumble into the business side of running. Said runner was recently at a sales conference where they had the opportunity to go on a fun-run with an Olympic marathoner. Said runner emailed me to get my thoughts on the matter. My response came from the decidedly non-professional side of my brain. (Would that the right side or the left?)
“Duh! That’s so cool! Of course you should go on this run and meet this Olympian!”
Obviously they wouldn’t be running Olympic speeds, right?
Err, yes and no. What I had managed to conveniently forget is that 95% of people working in the running biz are either retired elites or not-quite-elites who couldn’t quite give up the lure of living the running life.
The result? Thanks to my enthusiasm, my athlete ended up on an “easy run” that would have been a 5K PR if it was chip-timed. And I’d imagine said athlete also got a healthy dose of “feeling like you suck because the comparison is completely unfair”.
And crazy comparisons are kind of par for the course in this world. Yes, I’ve come a long way with my own running. Yes, I’m proud of my accomplishments. (Have you heard how I took 40 minutes off my marathon PR last year? No? Pass me a bullhorn and I’ll tell you.) And no, I don’t think every runner has to have “getting faster” as a goal.
But, no matter how strongly I believe there’s a place for everyone in running, I’m still as susceptible to the demons of comparison as the next person. And here’s what I’m surrounded by on a daily basis:
I could go on, but I’m starting to depress myself. Suffice it to say, when customers idly ask me, “Are you a runner?”, it’s all I can do not to choke.
Believe me, if you manage to find a non-runner working in a running specialty store, he probably committed a heinous crime to get the job. Blackmail at the very least.
And yet somehow, I snuck in. Somehow, despite my lack of a track career, despite my weaknesses for beer and chocolate, despite my never having run faster than 7 minutes for a mile EVER, I ended up in this crazy world, desperately hoping to convince people that my mind moves faster than my legs.
This requires a bit of a thick skin. More than once, when I’ve gone for long runs, my coworkers have assumed I got lost or injured. “No,” I have to remind them, “That’s just my pace.”
Or, when I talk about my (admittedly lofty) dream of one day qualifying for Boston, I have to endure lots of confused looks. “Well of course you’ll qualify. Just work a little harder.”
*Breathe deep, stay calm*
Yes, I can go toe-to-toe with my peers on shoe specs, the best nutritional options to avoid puking, and who’s looking good to win the next World Marathon Major. But when Rogue recently announced a “social employee run”, I almost panicked. (I say almost because I quickly realize I’d be at a wedding in Canada that weekend. Whew!)
I’m not exaggerating when I say this: I’m the slowest girl on the floor. Seriously – there’s a reason Jon “The Penguin” Bingham got so super famous (well, running-wise) for writing articles and books targeting normal people…
And it’s because normal people don’t work in running! Seriously. I’d say we’re maybe 5% of the industry, tops.
No, I’m not looking for sympathy here.
I actually think it *helps* me in a lot of ways to be closer to the mortal realm of runners. Heck, even I struggle to remember what it was like to think of 10 miles as a “long run”. Imagine how intimidating the rest of those speed demons are! It’s a wonder anyone comes into our store at all!
When Runner’s World posted this question on their Facebook page:
Check out this response and its 48 likes:
I guess the moral of my story is this: If you’re intimidated to walk into a running store, don’t worry. So am I. 🙂