woensdag 19 oktober 2016

The Internet Bullies are At It Again

So it’s Wednesday, which is usually a workout recap day for me, but something happened on the internet yesterday that I wanted to talk about.  The internet bullies came out in full force.  I wasn’t their target, but that doesn’t make me any less angry and disappointed about what happened.

To briefly summarize:

A woman who ran Augusta 70.3 (who I had “met” in a Facebook group and who seems pretty darn nice) posted in a Facebook group about an experience she had.  She was wearing her Augusta finisher’s gear and a stranger came up to her and told her that it was inappropriate for people who didn’t do a race to wear finisher’s gear.  She considers herself a “bigger triathlete” so I guess this person didn’t think she had the right look to have finished a 70.3.

Does this look like a triathlete? Yes, because I'm finishing a triathlon.

Does this look like a triathlete? Yes, because I’m finishing a triathlon.

That’s a feeling a lot of triathletes have.  “I’m too big to do this.”  Sure, it’s easier to bike up hills if you’re carrying less weight.  It’s part of the reason I’m working to drop some pounds – I want to get faster.  Does it mean that I can’t do it at my current weight?  Nope.  Does it mean that I couldn’t do it 20 pounds heavier?  Nope.  So this woman wanted to share her story, share her frustration, and also her pride at having finished the race.

For the most part, people were friendly, congratulating her for having a good comeback to the guy, applauding her pushing through and finishing.

Then someone decided to go look up her finishing time.  (This is an a**hole move to begin with, let’s be honest.)  Turns out, she was an official DNF at Augusta.  Different race companies have different rules, but for IRONMAN races, if you finish over 8:30, you are officially a DNF.  They still let you finish, they still give you your finisher’s hat and your medal, but you just don’t have an official time.  Did you then finish the race?  I think so.  Maybe you’re not official, but you covered the distance.  It’s a very different situation from races where they give you a medal even if you get swept.  I suppose technically, you’re not a finisher, but you pushed through, got to the finish line, and now you have a goal to beat.

(As an aside, my personal opinion on this has more to do with what you put into the race.  Did you follow your training plan?  If you got sick or injured and had to miss some training, that happens, of course.  But if you put in the work, and on race day, things just didn’t go your way, you deserve that finish.  If you didn’t train, thought you could just rest on your laurels, and showed up and got an official DNF, well maybe you shouldn’t be getting all the accolades.  Heck, if you didn’t train and finished within the time limits, you probably shouldn’t be getting all the accolades.)

This guy calling her out on the official DNF didn’t stop there.  While plenty of people were still saying she had every right to wear the gear, others started to pile on the negativity.  And then it got worse.  Someone created a Facebook group to make fun of her as well as others, using her finisher picture as the header picture.  But this wasn’t just a private group.  No, they actually invited people they wanted to bully to the group.

People.  How old are we?  This is incredibly childish (actually, I think it’s an insult to children to refer to these idiots as such).  What is the point?  How awful must you feel about yourself to bully someone from behind a keyboard?

The fact that this was happening got shared in a few different Facebook groups I’m in.  And people were supportive and angry at the bullies.  But what makes me sad is that even though there were all these amazing voices out there, those mean voices are still going to cut through for a lot of people.  And some people who are new to triathlon, who are just considering their first race are going to end up stepping away because they don’t look like a “typical” triathlete and don’t want people making fun of them.

The thing is, 99% of the triathletes I have met are AMAZING people.  They don’t care how fast or how slow you are.  At Kona, it’s pretty much tradition that the winners come back out late in the evening to give the last finishers their medals.  You see it happen at other races as well, and it’s not unusual at any distance to see finishers cheering on the people still racing.  Because we all run the same race.

Don’t let the mean people scare you off.  And don’t let the mean people suck you in either.  Making fun of another person is not the way to feel better about yourself.  We’re all better than this.

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