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Original Issue


I'm finally weary of non-runners, most especially the ones who write magazine articles denouncing running and other forms of exercise as well. Such articles have appeared in Playboy, which you might expect, and in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, too. Their implicit purpose, of course, is to placate—why be polite about it?—slobs. The authors parade their childish guilt as a kind of sophisticated outrage. It is impossible not to conclude that they wish they were in better shape themselves, but for whatever reasons can't quite make it, so they try to ridicule those of us who have by calling us bores or fools, and by claiming that all we are doing is torturing ourselves.

Don't ever tell us how far you run or how hard you work out, they say. It is as if fanatical exercise addicts were constantly grabbing their lapels and launching into sermons. We don't want to have to watch you, either, they say—as if they were tied to trees with their eyes taped open along jogging trails. A few words extolling the virtues of eating and drinking, and their argument is complete.

But the motives are transparent, the arguments absurd. I know dozens of runners, hundreds of non-runners, and in my experience it is never runners who bring up the subject of exercise. Almost invariably the conversations start when someone asks, "Are you still running?" No matter that the person asking this knows quite well that you've been running for 20 years. What he would like to ask, the way he would phrase the question if he only had the nerve, is, "Everybody's entitled to an occasional aberration, but haven't you managed to cure yourself yet?"

But you haven't, so you mumble, "Yes, still at it," and hope he'll let it go at that.

I, for one, seldom have such luck. All too often I'm forced to listen to a detailed summary of the latest piece of deathless prose that explains how runners are ruining their feet, knees, backs, hearts, livers, kidneys. People over 40 can't stand the strain. A little extra weight is really good for you (40 pounds? I wonder). Runners get so tired their sex lives suffer. They get too much of this, too little of that. On it goes. Talk about bores.

To each his own, though, and the point is simply this. If you want to wear a corset instead of a belt, and if you choose to pickle your insides with martinis, go right ahead. It certainly isn't my concern. I don't want to hear about it, and I most assuredly don't need to know your opinions on what I and my kind choose to do.