Charlie's Blog: Failed Runner Syndrome


Failed Runner Syndrome

You can't run a marathon every day, but you can walk a marathon every day with no ill effects.

I am a regular listener to a podcast called Walking is Fitness. I have found this podcast to be both motivational and life changing as the host of the podcast has told me things about walking I didn't know. A recent example is where I learned that the calorie burn from wearing weights while walking is so insignificant as to not justify the increased risk of injury. You are better off just walking five extra minutes for that small extra calorie burn. Needless to say, I recommend the podcast. I do have one issue with the podcast. The host clearly suffers from Failed Runner Syndrome.

Failed Runner Syndrome is when a walker with a running background or has friends and family who run develops an inferiority complex relative to running. Walking is seen as some second class form of exercise compared to the first class exercise of running. The host is a former runner who switched to walking because he found it more enjoyable. He stops short of saying walking was more sustainable and had fewer injuries than running. I think this is because his wife is a runner and works at a running shoe store. He also recently decided to train for and run a half marathon. Why?

When it comes to this topic, I prefer Frank Ring at Walking for Health and Fitness who is a former runner who candidly admits that running is more injurious than walking which is why he made the switch. For Ring, back issues were the primary injury for him. Walking has been the remedy for those back issues.

I quoted Shane O'Mara from memory of the podcast he did with Mel Robbins, so it may be a paraphrase instead of a precise quotation. I just cited the meat of what he said. You can walk a marathon daily without injury. I don't see runners achieving the same feat with running. If you need proof, consider hikers on the Appalachian Trail who cover 20+ miles daily carrying a pack. The bottom line is that human beings are good at walking. We are not so good at running.

I don't see walking as a second class of exercise to running. I have a good reason for this. Running is stupid. This fellow's rant captures this issue with running. Being a failed runner is equivalent to being a cowardly BASE jumper. It's called SMART. Doing things that hurt you is not smart. When did becoming smart become a failure?

If you suffer from Failed Runner Syndrome, this is a clear sign that you are stupid. The cure for this condition is to get smart. You should do no exercise that has a high risk of injury. Running has a high risk of injury. Injuries mean riding the couch. Riding the couch is not exercise. When I see walkers on my street, I see geniuses. When I see runners on my street, I see idiots. I saw one old guy on my street running one day. I don't see him anymore. I assume he got injured. The walkers are still walking. Where is the failure in that?

UPDATE #1: Dave pulled the plug on his half-marathon. His reason was because his wife "deferred" the half marathon to next year. He did not give the reason for this deferral. I can only guess and say that the wife suffered an injury in her training. Then, he confessed that he doesn't like running and prefers walking. I don't know why he blurted out this confession. What you don't say can speak volumes.

UPDATE #2: Dave recently posted a podcast called Which Is Better - Walking Or Running? Dave's podcasts are either inspiring or annoying. This podcast was annoying. I knew he would take a "diplomatic" stance on this debate because his wife is a runner. Yet, he has an audience of fitness walkers who want to hear that walking is better than running. He has also taken a diplomatic stance on rucking where he seems to recommend it where he didn't before. As I said, Dave is either inspiring or annoying.

My first issue was what he said about the knee issue. Runners will tell you that running does not hurt your knees. Ex-runners will tell you differently. The research indicates running is not bad for the knees, but I have already said these studies suffer from survivorship bias. Who would continue to run for a lifetime if it was destroying their knees? I think running is terrible for knees, hips, back, and feet. My personal experience has taught me that. With fitness walking, those injuries have vanished.

My second issue was with the cardiovascular benefit of running. Running has a slight edge on walking in this department. What people leave out are the diminishing returns of running. When pace and distance are increased, runners show the same mortality rates as people who never leave the couch. A slow jogger who clicks off ten minute miles three times a week for a total of 1.5 hours is probably safe on this. These folks display the same level of health benefits and longevity as--wait for it--fitness walkers.

Once upon a time, this low level of slow running was called "jogging." That term is now held in disdain as even joggers will now defend themselves as runners. I think this is unfortunate. I will candidly admit that I was just a jogger when I was younger. I ran in some road races for make believe fun, but I was always a shuffler and a plodder. I still got hurt doing it. The slight edge of jogging over walking is negated by the injuries.

Runners suffer from vanity. This is that "psychology" Dave mentioned about switching from running to walking. It takes humility to do the smart thing. When it comes to running, pride absolutely leads to destruction. I don't want Dave to get a divorce which is why I totally think his wife would leave him if he said running was for idiots. Calling your wife an idiot is not good for a marriage. Fortunately, I don't have those collateral considerations to bias my viewpoints. Running is for idiots.