As I stood shivering at the start line at the Charleston half, I took a look at the people around me. We all stood in contrasts of black and various neon colors, bouncing around to keep warm, adjusting armbands and water holders. We all looked fit, ready, cold…
…and rich. We looked really rich. And white. We looked really, really privileged.
I kept thinking about it, because I overheard someone else notice it, too. She commented to her friend how very white and skinny the crowd was. The friend said something like “I don’t know why more people don’t get out and run! I mean, all you need is a pair of shoes!”
All you need is a pair of shoes. I’ve heard that line so many times before. Heck, I used to say it. Now? Now I think about it and I cringe.
There’s this idea out there that running is the cheapest sport. You don’t need to pay gym fees, you don’t need balls or bats or uniforms or coaches. All you need is a pair of shoes, right?
And sure, for those first few steps? Maybe all you need IS a pair of shoes. And some clothing you don’t mind getting gross.
But soon? Well, soon you’ll see other runners, you’ll see the stuff they have. Most of us start out running in cotton. But you don’t “fit in” among runners wearing cotton. What if you want to “look like” other runners? What if you want the good clothing that doesn’t CHAFE, that washes well and is durable and breathes and helps you get through the hideously hot summers and freezing winters? Be prepared to spend some cash.
Take me on my race day, for example:
- Shoes: $100
- Insoles: $20
- Underarmor Tights: $80
- Underarmor Winter lined mock: $80
- Earband: $15
- Water bottle holder: $25
…I could go on. Add in an ipod, say, and the armband for that. Shorts, sports bras, shirts. Copies enough of each that you can run without doing laundry every day of your life. This gets hard if, say, you don’t have the option to do laundry at home.
Now what about running at night? You’ll need a headlamp and a reflector vest and something else so you don’t get run over. What about weather? I just dropped another $40 on yaktrax.
Multiply all of this by two if you’re not a clothing size found at Target. Heck, I know women who spend $80 on a single sports bra. They cannot physically run without it. Some women I know actually have to wear TWO at a time.
That’s just if you want to train. What if you want to race? A cheaper 5k isn’t bad, $25. But at the higher distances? I’m spending around $100/race. That doesn’t include travel.
What about fuel? Clif bars aren’t cheap. Gu and shot blocks are also not cheap.
Time isn’t cheap either. Time is an important factor. If you want to run a half marathon (as I was doing that day), you need to have the time to run, really run, 5-6 days a week. More than half an hour most days. On the weekends you need time to run the long distances. For me that’s a maximum of two hours. For someone doing their very first half? It’s more like four hours in some cases.
What about space? You need a place to run. Some people have safe neighborhoods. Some really do not. Some don’t have sidewalks. Some places have lovely river trails. But those places are often safe, high income places. Places you might need a car to get to. And more time. Time during daylight, a real challenge in the winter. Time is easier to come by when you don’t have two jobs. When there’s another adult at home to care for the kids while you run.
What about running in groups? Sure, but again, time is a factor. It takes a 9-5 job, and the privilege that comes with it, to meet a running group every night at 7. It takes a home with more than one adult in it to get up at 6am on the weekends and leave the kids to run for four hours.
For some people, all it takes is a pair of shoes. But those shoes are heavy with other things. With time, with opportunity. With money. And it makes me think of how much other stuff I already have, that all I needed was a pair of shoes.
EDITED TO ADD (9:47AM 12/30/14): I forgot something hugely important. The presumption of HEALTH. We presume, unless obvious, that people are healthy. That they have two good knees. Good feet. Good ankles. Good LUNGS. Healthcare or knowledge that they know how to run safely, with decent form, that if something tears they will have someone to go to to fix them up. Telling someone to just get out there a run presumes a lot about their current health status. A lot that might not be true.