Penn cross country roundtable: Run to win or run to be thin?
September 17, 2013, 9:32 pm · Updated September 17, 2013, 10:53 pm·
Three members of Penn cross country — sophomore Elyssa Gensib, senior Kersie Jhabvala and sophomore Brendan Smith — debate the question: Why is running so popular and yet watched so little? Do you think too many people view running as a hobby or pastime rather than a sport?
Elyssa Gensib: Definitely people view it as a hobby or, worse, a way to lose weight. People who run to be competitive (or have in the past) can appreciate the time, work and strategy that goes into racing and relate to it. Those are the people who can enjoy running as a sport. For your average hobby-jogger, they can’t make those emotional connections with competitive runners because they haven’t experienced it themselves. For those who understand racing and tactics, watching a race is action-packed, but it’s not blatantly obvious like with most other sports.
Kersie Jhabvala: I agree with Elyssa. You frequently see in ads, commercials and even social network sites enticing people to “go out and run in order to live a healthy lifestyle.” What’s interesting is noting the opinion of competitive runners versus lifestyle runners. As a competitive runner, we don’t think along the lines of “Hey, I’m going to go run today for exercise,” but instead we think “Hey, I’m going to go run so I can be better than yesterday,” or “So I can get a personal record in the next race.” Whereas running can be thought of as a daily routine or hobby to some, competitive runners view it as a goal to reach their potential — and each day is a day closer to reaching that goal. Why is it watched so little? Because society thrives on action sports (as Elyssa mentioned). Sports like football, baseball or hockey are viewed as thrilling and entertaining for the average population. Touchdowns, people hitting each other, unexpected plays, head-to-head competition, a reason to drink with friends … it all drives American sports. Although running is thought of as “repetitive,” or my favorite — “used to condition for every other sport” — it certainly is a science to those who have engaged in it. While most may watch the sport as merely consecutive laps at the same pace, we as college runners view it strategically — who will step on the line and surprise everyone, who will close in a remarkable time, who will establish a PR [personal record], or something as simple as who will make a move sooner or later? Again, it’s something that’s worth being involved in in order to understand its excitement and fascination as a sport of its own.
Brendan Smith: I feel as though running is so easily a hobby instead of a sport. Running is incorporated into almost every other sport; you run to get in shape for different sports and you go on runs with your team to cross train. It isn’t often that you run solely to break records or hit certain times. Also, there aren’t teams to follow in track and field like there are in football or basketball. I admittedly don’t follow running or cross country much because it’s harder to keep track of and isn’t as action-packed as other sports I like to watch. I feel like there are many people who view running as a hobby because that’s what it is for them. For people who train and are trying to run down records or set personal records, however, it’s a sport to them. It comes down to a difference in involvement and opinion.