In the past 48 hours I seem to have created a bit of a social media storm around a brand and their latest PR success/disaster depending on what side you sit. Below is a picture of the top produced by the brand Saysky which has emblazon on the back; “not made for walking”. It is undoubtedly placed on the back so that those you are overtaking during a race see it.
I shook with anger when I saw this top on The Runner Beans’ stories, and had to do something. The fact that a brand thinks it is ok to put out a product that alienates and ridicules the vast majority of runners is disgraceful. Let me start off by saying; walking doesn’t make you any less of a runner. Never forget that.
There are a few people who are pointing out they are probably being deliberately controversial as it creates free PR from us all complaining about it. I am not naive, I know that might be their intention but that does not make it ok. Just because it is their aim won’t stop me from speaking out when I see something that is wrong. You could say I am too touchy, a snowflake or a keyboard warrior but I spent my entire childhood cowering to bullies, I don’t any more.
When I started running I was 20 stone, crippled with depression and self-doubt. I didn’t use social media, so I saw no one like me out there running. I would run at night out of fear of being ridiculed. Under the cover of darkness in the middle of the countryside I knew no one would judge me for struggling and walking. Because all I had for inspiration was top class athletes and the mainstream media’s portrayal of runners I thought it was weak to walk. Let that settle in.
It is one of the reason I started this blog; to document the good, bad and chaffing of starting out as a runner to make sure that no one has to go through the mind f**k of thinking that struggling is anything other than brilliant. The fact that you are struggling shows you are trying.
The first run I did that dark night was probably less than a kilometre, I walked during that run, I walk during my runs now. When I started every run had more walking than running but I still exercised, felt great and made a positive change to my mental and physical health. I’m so glad this top didn’t exist when I was starting out because I know it would have affected how I saw my self. I struggled with labelling myself a runner for so long, even after I ran my first marathon because of brands and people like this putting a benchmark on being a runner. So let me be clear to anyone doubting: if you run, you are a runner. Doesn’t matter if that mile took 5 minutes or 15, it is still a mile and you should be damn proud of that.
So let’s break down my proudest my running achievements:
- Toughest footrace on the planet; The Marathon des Sables; I walked most of it.
- 25 Marathons across the world; walked during every single one
- 21 minute 5km; yup you guessed it, walked during that.
I asked Saysky for a comment about this whole thing before I posted as I wanted to hear their thinking behind the slogan. They’ve seen the message but nothing back, silence speaks volumes. But read the comment section of my Instagram post below and you’ll see the true spirit of running and the running community that I adore so much.
I want to finish this post with a quote that I have repeated to myself many times during races from one of my idols and one of the world’s greatest runners; Dean Karnazes.
“Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.”