When They Laugh at Your Ultrarunning

Susan Donnelly after Black Hills 100.

“I hate driving that far. Haha!”

You’ve probably heard this a bazillion times. I have.

You know when some laughs at your ultrarunning?

And not admiringly, with a follow up like, “That’s amazing!”

When someone makes fun of it, or says it’s dumb or a waste of time.

You let a lot of jokes like this roll off your shoulders but it gets old, and it’s harder when the people joking are close to you. 

Since this situation inevitably comes up, it would be nice to have some simple strategies to deal with it. Here are three…

1. Ask yourself, “Do they have to understand or care?”

There are 7.7 billion people on the planet today. Billion. Do they all have to think ultrarunning is amazing? Do they all have to get what it’s like to cross the finish line after 100 or 200 miles of brutally hard work?

Or feel it at the same depth you do? 

Of course not.

Thirty years ago, before I was running ultramarathons, I understood it intellectually but not in my heart and soul like I do now. Why should I expect anyone else to? 

It's fine that a big chunk of the world doesn't know about, love, or understand ultrarunning. There are plenty of things other people love to do that I don’t get (embroidery or video games, for example), and that’s ok.

2. Ask yourself, “What am I making it mean?”

That they don’t care enough about you to appreciate ultrarunning like you do?

Not necessarily.

Remember, it’s hard for most of us to put even into words what we really love about it, so it’s only reasonable that some people might not understand it, even if they really want to.

3. Instead of spending your time and energy trying to change them, decide what you are going to do.

If it’s a stranger or a causal acquaintance, you could simply smile or give them a canned response, like “I don’t either,” and gracefully move on.

If it’s someone closer to you and this is a regular habit, you could set a boundary, like, “If you’re going to laugh at me, I will leave.” 

The main point to remember is that we don’t get to write the rules about how others should act, what they should think, or what they should believe (thank goodness, because I don’t have the energy to manage anyone but me).

They get to follow their own rules, same as us.

Should you invest your time and effort into making someone care about ultrarunning? 

Or should you just care about it no matter what they say or do?

The latter’s way easier and way more successful. 

We all want to be understood and appreciated but it doesn’t always happen.

Have one or more of these strategies at the ready so you can sail through the next inevitable comparison of ultrarunning and driving with peace.

Susan Donnelly’s signature

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