You are taught that you are a marginalized athlete from the minute you lace up your pair of lawn-mowing ready Asics running shoes and nervously trot out for the first day of high school cross country practice. You may attain successes unimaginable to the bulk of your school’s team sport participants, but—to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield—you don’t get no respect! You are aggrieved, and your teammates and competitors are too. And so you band together.
Overtime, you grow to cherish this bond, forged on shared misery and the perception that you have been unfairly othered. But you wouldn’t trade it for the world—or a higher slot on the pecking order of varsity athletics. The kinship you feel for other runners—the maligned, scantily clad weirdos of the sporting and social kingdoms only grows stronger as you age, and by a certain point running overtakes all other personal attributes as the key identifier of who you are.
This is all to say, runners are a fiercely tribal lot. And we tend to give each other a pass, operating under a mutual assumption that all runners are inherently good.
Projecting saintliness onto anyone who slaps on a pair of short shorts on a semi-regular basis isn’t inherently bad. It allows us to meet and learn to love people we might not otherwise give the time of day, and that’s probably a good thing.
But, with this basic assumption of humanity for anyone who runs, comes the risk that some real dipshits will slip through the cracks. Absolute ass holes can go socially unvetted for years, thanks to their tendency to jog. And while this may be rare, it’s important to remember that it happens, and that one’s guard should never be 100% down, nor should we turn a blind eye to a fucking awful person who run’s real world transgressions.
Case in point: in reporting on the identity of a previously anonymous, and highly prominent online white nationalist, the Huffington Post let slip that Douglass Mackey—bigoted mouth breather behind the Alt-Right Twitter account “Ricky Vaughn”—was a collegiate 800-meter runner while attending Middlebury College.
This is a guy who was probably as doofy as the rest of us as a high school harrier; another member of the running community who felt like a victim for largely imagined and unimportant reasons. But rather than lean into the running world like the rest of us, and behaving like some sort of kind, gawky anti-hero from a bad teen comedy, this real piece of shit became an anti-semite, racist, misogynist, who garnered the online adoration of slew of other people just like him.
Be careful out there, folks. It’s okay to be wary of a fellow runner if they’re ranting about “globalists.” And if you can, like, invite the freshmen on your team to play ultimate frisbee or something so they don’t wind up getting brain poisoning from the more conspiratorial corners of the internet.