Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Every runner's humblebrag

When it comes to the topic of proficiency on rolling terrain, some distance runners will admit that they're no good on downhills compared to other runners. These admissions are, in my experience, almost universally coupled to the offhanded observation "I can run uphills, no problem."

On one hand, this makes a modicum of sense: being great at running uphills and not-so-great at running downhills are probably complementary traits. I'm kind of a bucket-sitter and shuffler, so cajoling my center of gravity forward in the way that would help me on downhills isn't easy. Uphills, at least sustained uphills in longer races, have always  to present less of a challenge to me than to those around me.

But on the other hand, there's a moral component to this "admission" in a lot of cases. Most people, if given the choice between being perceived as a good uphill runner and being viewed as a spectacular downhill runner (and my above comments concerning my own form notwithstanding, this is largely a false dichotomy), would rather be viewed as being good climbers. Better to be seen as gritty and tough but possibly not agile than to be perceived as fearless and coordinated but weak.

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