I had a bizarre experience last Saturday during the 10,000 that has been bothering me since. I didn’t include it in my race report because it was such a positive experience overall that I didn’t want to taint it by telling this story but since I can’t shake it, here it is.
I was maybe 6 laps into the race, feeling incredible because I was clicking off laps effortlessly and feeling strong. As I rounded the curve towards the home straight, someone yelled out “Number 21, open up your stride!!” At first, I thought perhaps I misremembered the number stuck to me and shook it off. When I came around on the next lap, however, a coach in red started screaming again “Number 21, your STRIDE!!!! OPEN UP YOUR STRIDE!!” She was standing in the bleachers screaming at me and I.was.mortified.
First of all, I have a lot of residual embarrassment and fear of being yelled at by coaches from my high school experience so it was a miracle that I even signed up for a race on the track where there is nowhere to hide for close to 40 minutes. I won’t lie that I was extremely self-conscious as I stepped on the track with the lowest female hip number in my spandex at 32 years old next to 18 and 19 year olds. The fact that a stranger, someone who doesn’t know me, coach me or have any stake in my performance felt that it was appropriate to scream at me for my form hurt me more than I can ever explain. I turned and shrugged my arms at her, my feeble attempt to say “f*ck off” and finished my race without incident but it chewed at me for the remainder of the race. I thought about finding her afterward to give her a piece of my mind, both as a coach and an athlete, but decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting.
Since then, I haven’t been able to go for a run without feeling self conscious about my form. Are those drivers looking at me, wondering why I run so oddly? Do I look ridiculous doing speed work? Why do I even bother to try to run competitively with such bad form?
Here’s the thing: I DO shuffle. Part of that is because I have been running marathons for years and the shuffle comes with the territory. Part of it is because I stand all day long, often in weird positions and my back and hips are ridiculously tight. Part of it is that I don’t do enough dynamic work. But my shuffle also works to my advantage. I have a high cadence and I land on my midfoot, which means my impact is virtually nil. I’m quiet and efficient when I run. I know I could use more knee drive. Most of us could. What I don’t need more of, however, is self consciousness about how I look when I’m running.
Has this ever happened to you in a race? Would you have confronted her? What’s your body/running hangup?