When Is It Okay to Give Running Advice?

As he pulls up to the building, in a pouring rain, Jack wonders why the other drivers are honking. “Because you’re doing it wrong,” says his son Alex.

Jack scoffs. “I know how to do this,” he mutters. At which point Annette, a smiling woman in a rain slicker, waves him down. He stops and lowers his window, and this happens: Annette: “Hello, Jack? I’m Annette.” Jack: “Hi.” Annette: “You’re doing it wrong.”

You have to see the scene to truly appreciate it—the timing and delivery, the body language, the angry woman who drives by and screams at Jack, “South to drop off, moron!”—but, in essence, there it is, brilliant in its bluntness. You’re doing it wrong.

In a world full of gray areas, of questionable assertions and (pardon my language) outright bull-pucky, how reassuring is it to find a bit of black and white? How bracing to be in a position to know someone is “doing it wrong”—and to tell them so?

RELATED: The 5 Worst Things to Do After Your Run

We runners pride ourselves on being strong and self-disciplined, and rightfully so. Finishing a marathon, gutting out a 5K PR, getting in a long run when it’s freezing cold or brutally hot. All demand great strength and tremendous self-discipline. None of them, however, compares to the strength and self-discipline required for a runner to restrain himself when someone is “doing it wrong.”

My own strength was tested recently when I heard a woman warning her young daughter, “Don’t drink too much water—it’ll give you cramps.” This was during a fundraiser at my daughter’s school. The kids were running around the small campus, earning money for each lap. I was a volunteer stationed near the water bottles, which is how I came to witness Mom cutting short her daughter’s sip.

 

The advice was bull-pucky. I knew that. I could have said so. But I didn’t.

Months earlier I’d been in a similar spot at a youth soccer practice. It involved a father critiquing his son’s…

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