Runners with Pitchforks

mob_pitchforksI’ve been running as a long as I can remember. I don’t make money from it, and I haven’t done 25 marathons – I haven’t even done one, but nevertheless I still identify as “Runner.” In other words if it was on the census, I’d check it off.

When the bombings took place at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year, it felt too close to home. This despite the fact that as I mentioned, I’ve never run a marathon. And I don’t think I’m unique in having felt this way.

I think it’s because it felt like an attack on a community of people. And whether you are a recreational “weekend” runner or you’ve been competing for the past 30 years in road-races all over North America, you can probably word for word replicate that feeling I got in my stomach when I flipped open twitter and started seeing snippets of what was going on at the finish line last April. It was just this awful, gut-wrenching feeling and my heart ached for the innocent runners and bystanders, who like me, were so passionate and supportive of the community they feel proud to be a part of.

This community thing used to encompass only the radius of our city – but the online world has changed our perimeter, hasn’t it? We can support fellow runners we’ve never met after they post an Instagram of their split-time frozen on the screen of their Garmin. And it’s great right? With the flip of a switch your “community” is this big inter-woven network of people all over the world; people who have common interests and values.

I have to tell you though, I’m beyond appalled at the way the running community has reacted to the Boston Bib bandits following last week’s Marathon. So much so, that I really have no interest in maintaining my “community” status.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about there are a few articles you can check out. Like this one here or this one here.

And to the journalist from Deadspin who arguably started it all, congratulations. You win. I took the bait.

First things first – I will start by proclaiming (!!) that yes, stealing is wrong. I like you, learned that probably when I hit kindergarten… maybe sooner. And yes, people who knowingly steal bibs to get into races should be penalized. I’d offer that maybe a fine could be imposed following a thorough follow-up from the athletic association organizing the event. Maybe even some sort of black-list status that puts a moratorium your entry from other races until you’ve done your time.

You know what I’m not in favour of? A vicious mob.

The verbal reaction that people are “ok” with in the on-line world right now is frankly pretty disturbing. That “community” I thought I was part of, has morphed into an angry cult or fanatical religious organization of like-minded thinkers who forgot what the original mandate was supposed to be.

I don’t care what cause an organization is founded upon, once you start to publicly shame, humiliate and essentially stone offenders, I’m going to back off.

Confounding matters, these “articles” posted by tabloid-ish publications are completely unethically written. The long-term repercussions of posting someone’s photograph or name without even having equal representation is just asinine as far as I’m concerned.

But it wasn’t just the tabloids trying to drive traffic and that’s the worst part. There was a scary majority of comments on these articles were actually disgusting; calling the accused things like “Bastards” “C-word” - words that I wouldn’t use to describe my worst enemy.

I do feel bad for the people who worked hard for their entry and then had an element of that taken away from them. It’s a crying shame. But it’s not so bad that I’m going to forget what era we’re living in.

When I was reading the articles, I couldn't help but feel that there was this overwhelming sense of “Let’s pick up our pitch-forks and run after them, in a good old fashioned medieval style “themed” race.” I’m actually astonished at how few of the comments seemed to over-look the fact that the sentiments of their fellow “runners” were verging on barbaric.

So I’m on official hiatus. Don’t call me a runner right now because I do not want to be associated with that mess. I'm currently accepting applications from non-crazies for my new jogging-club. All are welcome if you love to run and you leave your political ideology in the sweat-check.