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by @garyfallsover
Tuesday 1st July 2014
Tags  Gary Dalton   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Strava   |   Pinterest   |   Movescount   |   Social media

Run247 columnist Gary Dalton ponders the pros and cons of sharing our (ultra) running experiences on social media

I once got seventeen likes for a photo of a trail sign.  My facebook timeline is filled every day with friends posts about awesome races they’ve seen or are doing, trail porn has entered my vernacular, much to the chagrin of my parents and the IT departments firewall and I seem to spend far more time digitally engaging with the running community than actually getting off my backside and going out for a run.

Now it wasn’t always this way, I’m the classic late adaptor, I didn’t have a facebook profile until a couple of years ago and I’ve only recently discovered Twitter. I was the guy still talking about the great band I found on MySpace and wondering why everyone was looking at me in that you 'poor deluded fool' kind of way.  But I now tweet like a thirteen year old girl, I already think fb is so last year and I’m desperately trying to work out how Pinterest works without looking like my dad.

It’s the standing joke within the ultra running community that the real measure of an ultra runner isn’t that they’ve completed a hundred miler, it’s whether or not they have a blog to tell people they’ve completed a hundred miler.

Well if I’m honest probably the only reason  I haven’t gotten one myself is that, despite having a degree in systems programming, I’m a complete eejit when it comes to computers.

My engagement with the ultra community has usurped the endless stream of cat videos and photos of little Tarquin's first steps that used to habitate my timeline. Not completely of course, yesterday I did  ‘share’ the fact that Cressida had taken her first unaided pooh. I thought that was a nice milestone to keep for future generations.

The prevalence of social media sites and blogs has opened up the community to a far greater audience than either word of mouth or the printed press could ever do. We’ve all become correspondents in spreading the word, from wordpress to Strava to Instagram, we’re giving the world  access to facets of our lives that previously would have only been the subject of discussion between friends and clubmates. I can now compare track splits with real and virtual friends all over the world, I can follow Killian or tweet Frosty, I can engage with suppliers of clothing and shoes in a far more open and efficient way than ever before and all because we, I, have chosen to open up my running life to the www.

You see in days gone by, in the golden days that we look back at with rose tinted specs, without ever really wanting to revisit, I wouldn’t have known that my mate Rick was getting quicker until he’d blown past me in the last 400 of our track session. I’d be oblivious to the fact that Dan had been spending his time running up and down Scafell Pike and I wouldn’t have demoralised myself when I compared my training against that of others and found myself wanting. I’d just have done what I fancied doing, lacking the knowledge that the new Wonderguards could make me 16% faster and that Hokas were the devils shoes. Thanks to a host of sites I can now find out pretty much everything I need to know by looking online. I can find races, products and services that I never knew I needed until they told me I couldn’t run without them. But of course I can. Most of us do it every day.

So is the fact that we live in a digital age a good thing or not when it comes to running? And more specifically, because that’s primarily where my interest lies, in ultra running? Because I think that fundamentally human beings are competitive people, we’re constantly looking to put ourselves that one step higher on the rung of comparative success than our neighbour. Now we obviously can’t all be Mo Farah or even a Steven Way, so we look to achieve our success in a more pedestrian manner. We one up each other on social media. You’ve done a big race? Mine’s going to be bigger. You’re heading to the MdS? Ha, I’m doing a double MdS.

There’s an expression in the police called ‘two shitting’ someone. You know when you’re sitting around with your mates, there’s always that one guy or girl who’s always gone one better than you. If you’ve ran a 50 he’s run 100. You’ve done the UTMB he’s done the Tor des Geants. You’ve just taken a shit he’s taken two. I’m sure we all know one of them and if you don’t, well, the chances are...

So on balance I think the prevalence of social media within trail running is a good thing, you can engage or disengage with it as much or as little as you like.  I’ve never used a site like Strava, but I know friends who think it’s a fantastic training tool, they get huge amounts of motivation from challenging others on there and knowing that all their achievements are there for all to see. And that’s what’s important isn’t it? It really doesn’t matter what motivates you, or I, to get out and go for a run as long as you actually do it. It could be that you want to destroy a mates local parkrun time on Movescount or you’ve been inspired by a blog post by Anton telling us how he loves being at one with the mountain. It really doesn’t matter.

If It wasn’t for fb and twitter I wouldn’t have had half the contact I have with like minded people and I wouldn’t have kept in such close touch with them. For all the arguments about social media being the death of personal contact I don’t buy it for a second.

Used well social media is a fantastic tool for arranging runs and meeting friends I’d probably not meet otherwise. I don’t know about you but I’d never consider phoning around thirty or forty people to see who fancied a long run at the weekend. One tweet or status update and it’s done.  I wouldn’t have made and kept friends, had experiences, traveled to places I’d never otherwise have seen and recorded all those things for posterity on a variety of media platforms. Social media should never be mistaken as a replacement for interpersonal contact but as an aid to it.

So there will be the occasional time I call someone a bellend on fb for posting, yet again, a question about Hokas, but for every self-indulgent post and inane tweet, there’s an inspirational blog, a stunning photo or an enticing race.

On balance I’m willing to put up with a status update about little Jacks first steps, if I also get to learn about what’s happening in my community.

Please feel free to like and share this post J...


About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 


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