Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

You know, I was feeling really proud of myself for the last several months. It was a long time coming, this seven months of “sobriety” so to speak, but it finally happened: I had finally reached my personal longstanding goal of not reading Letsrun.com for over HALF A YEAR!

*Virtual fist-bump.*

It was a necessary change. It was, in short, really putting the kibash on my faith in the running sect of humanity. There was something negative to be said about every runner and every race and every coach and every team, no matter how good.

So I had to give it up, and I did, cold turkey. And the running world became instantly brighter and seemed to have so fewer…critics.

However, in a rather unfortunate turn of events, I relapsed, and I’m ashamed. As I should be.

What was the trigger you ask? Actually you probably didn’t ask, and you probably don’t care to know, but you can always count on me to dramatically elaborate way more than is necessary, and boy would I hate to disappoint!

So to begin, I spend a fairly decent amount of time writing about runners–it’s a personal favorite nerdy little hobby of mine–and for the sake of “research” on a particular person/topic one fine day in recent weeks, I ventured onto the Letsrun front page as I occasionally do, but seldom do I go beyond into that place that I had sworn off. Into the darkness…onto…the Message Board.

But on this fateful day, I did. I knew what I was getting into, I knew that I was tempting myself. I knew that I should just stop. But I didn’t.

I know, I know, women don’t go on Letsrun. This is a myth, because actually yes they do. Guilty as charged. Although I can’t claim to have added anything to that virtual cesspool of faceless posters who so gleefully sling (usually ill-informed) nit-picky criticisms and insults at people who are doing running, and most likely life, far better than they themselves are, but I’ve certainly indulged in my fair share of pointless perusal, driven by nothing other than curiosity as to whether this time, maybe, just maybe, there’ll be something there worth reading. But there really never is .

I don’t know how it happened. I mean, I thought I had it beat. But perhaps I was feeling vulnerable that day. And In my moment of weakness, resisting the urge to click that icon, when I knew that succumbing to my former vice was becoming rapidly inevitable if I didn’t turn back soon, I held my breath and closed my eyes and summoned up what remained of my waning strength and will and tried to remember the acronym we talked about in Support Circle a few weeks ago: H.A.L.T. Don’t ever put yourself into a position of potential compromise if you are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. If you are feeling H.A.L.T., then halt!

But alas, my effort was to no avail that day. Resistance was futile and my struggle…fruitless. I clicked and I clicked and I scrolled and I scrolled and I read thread after thread and I just couldn’t stop! “So-and-so is running well and must be on EPO!” “Bad race for (fill in the blank), is he/she DONE?” “My Horrible Coach Makes Me Go Running!” “So and So Blows Up in Such and Such Marathon Clocking a Pathetic 2:08! So and So is FINISHED!” “Should I give up running for roller-skating?”

It was madness. The struggle was real. I greedily consumed the fodder meant only for the the spiteful, the critics, the nay-sayers, the jealous has-been’s, and the resentful never-were’s. No, it was not my finest hour. I’m not proud of it.

But, all was not lost. Some 45 minutes later I could take no more. With shaking, sweaty, palms and bloodshot eyes, dredging up all the strength that I could muster up from within myself, like the final climb up the 16 Golden Stairs of Pikes Peak, I got a grip on myself and I forced myself away, with a bloodcurdling yell I hurled my laptop from the open window, and with a triumphant fist-pump I remembered why I told myself I would never, ever read anything posted on there again: because no matter what, haters gonna hate. And I do not want to descend to that level.

But while I had found it within myself to step away before reaching the Point Of No Return, it was a bitter-sweet victory: the damage was done.

Okay, in all seriousness there were no shaking hands or bloodshot eyes or hurled laptops and there has never been a Support Circle. Theatrics, all of it. Ever the Drama Queen.

But nevertheless, the old familiar feeling of disgust combined with bewilderment and tinged with a bit of discouragement as to why so many people seem so very interested in minimizing or altogether tearing down the efforts of other people in our sport descended on me again, and I was admittedly feeling a little bleh and a bit like I ate some bad lettuce or something.

As background, for those unfamiliar with the website message board of which I speak, count yourself fortunate and don’t waste your time. Like they say about meth: don’t try it, not even once.

In college we sometimes geeked-out over TrackShark and Dyestat; I don’t think they’re around anymore, but they were similar media sources where you could read up on all of the latest and greatest in the running world. And they were great for the most part and featured some interesting info, but they also seemed to attract a lot of the same harsh and totally unnecessary criticism that prevails on on the old LR. The sources that are supposed to promote the sport and make it better actually seem like they attract the people that make it worse, and then we wonder why we’re so short on fans. How’re we supposed to attract fans when we aren’t even our own fans?

And while the ongoing joke is that that you haven’t made it big till you get thrown under the bus on Letsrun is comical to a certain extent, for the most part I think the principle of that is kind of a shame, a little disheartening, and not to mention a little weird: you’re not a success until a bunch of people say you’re miserably unsuccessful? Mmmkay.

Maybe it’s because I follow approximately zero other sports, so I don’t really know, but does the anonymous, incessant, malicious, nit-picking, fault-finding, cutting-down of the greats in our sport and the efforts of up-and-comers and their pursuit of greatness happen in every other sport too? I mean, I sure hope not, but if not then why just running? Why is the fact that someone is out there busting their ass to see what they can do really so bothersome to some people? And why does anonymity bring out the nastiest characteristics in said people? And do they not get that there is another actual real live human on the receiving end?

Anyway, there’s this thing called Pareto’s Principle, also called the 80-20 Rule, and it divvies most statistics up as 80%-20%. For instance, 20% of the food you eat causes 80% of your health problems. Or, you’ll have really high job satisfaction if you enjoy 80% of it and dislike no more than 20%. Or if you create something really rad, like a book or piece of art or in this case, a great race, there will always, without fail, be at least 20% of folks that think it sucks and will in fact find a lot wrong with it, even though the other 80% think it’s great. It’s always that little percentage of people that can’t stand having another person’s light shining in their eyes, in a manner of speaking, and they let everyone know it. And they seem to be the ones who voice their worthless opinions the loudest and make the whole sport appear to be comprised entirely of complete @$$holes.

So, even though it’s a little ironic that I just ranted for a whole post hating on the haters in the sport, all this is to say, I’m back off the Letsrun for good. I would like to go back to having my former more shiny and upbeat outlook on running and runners and everyone’s tireless efforts at seeing what they can become, even when those efforts are interspersed with the occasional “failure” here and there.

So folks, screw the 20%, do it for the 80%! And like Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts….”

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