AOM Writing Prompt #2a – Conformity

Art of Manliness Self-Sufficiency Writing Prompt challenge #2.

I am going to adapt the writing prompts by changing the self-sufficiency idea that these prompts were based, to address my own questions or thoughts about running that come about as a result as a result of my thinking about the writing prompt.

After all to be a runner you need to be fairly self-sufficient.

I imagine that with a busy life that completing all the prompts will take more than 31 days, so I will take as long as it takes to complete all 31 and I am good with that. Especially, since I think that these prompts will force me to stop and think about some things with my running from perspectives that I would not have otherwise.

Day 2


A. “The virtue in most request is conformity.” ―Emerson

B. “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ―Joseph Campbell


This writing prompt in my my mind is actually two different prompts, so that is the way that I am going to respond to them.

Wow, conformity and how it relates to running has so many directions that could be taken, however I do not want to write a post with several chapters or start a book, so I will paint a broad brush to keep the length somewhat reasonable, while attempting to maintain a certain focus.

Conforming to society’s norms and expectations is something that most of us do without really thinking about what we are doing. After all we have laws that are not optional to follow, certain social norms that we agree to (for the most part), had to conform to for at least several years of school’s rules, then for many of us conforming to the “military or company way” to earn a living.

Conforming for most of us is just the way it is.

Then you have us runners.

Cape Cod 10K - 1985

I have a feeling that in many respects we don’t fit in, errr conform, with the norms of the world today.

My Experiences

For me, the biggest reason that I started running back in high school was because I was one of those who didn’t fit comfortably into any particular social niche and was more introverted and geeky than the normal teen back in the early 1970s.

Running in high school introduced me to others who were pretty much in the same boat and I became a J.V. cross country runner. I was never very good as a runner, but I fit in with the J.V. Cross Country runners all through high school better than anywhere else.

JV XC 1971

While I went in the military and after that became a teacher (two bastions of conformity) to keep my sense of me, I kept running over the years. Even then though I had fairly successful careers in both, for most of the time I spent in those professions, I was still that square peg attempting to fit into a round hole.

Basketball_25201.1_2520012 (2)

As much as I tried to fit in, I really never did.

Over the years not much changed all that much, I am rather introverted, still more comfortable by myself, with brief interludes of being around others who share my interests. As much as I hate to admit it, I am more comfortable talking with a keyboard than I am in person. I can easily correct my social fubars with a back stroke or delete key, whereas in person I fumble with the right words or how to keep conversations going.

So the geeky kid from high school really never changed all that much.

Although now that I am retired, I am finally getting comfortable with who I am and the direction life is taking me. Yes, I do conform to most of societies norms and I abide by the expectations of the running community at large, but I am becoming better at saying no to things that are not going in the direction that I want to take my life. The older I get, the more I find that the people that I prefer to be around are others who are runners too.

So yes, I am biased about running and runners and you know something that is okay and I really don’t care what others think about it.


Sometimes I wonder if many runners consciously or subconscioiusly choose running to have something in their life where they purposely don’t have to conform completely to the rest of the world around us? We all seem to struggle to fit into the world that has been built around us.

From my perspective runners do tend to see the world and do things just a bit differently than the majority of the other people around us. Not always better, but definitely differently.

The next time you are in a race, with a group of runners or in an area where there are a lot of us, take a closer look at the runners around you.

What do you see?

Do it – I double dog dare you to actually look at the other runners you see.


Look beyond the pained expressions on our faces, how fast or slow we are actually running, the neon colored laundry that drapes our bodies, the technological gizmos attached to various and sometimes prominent parts of our bodies, what kind of running shoes or even the lack of them.

Think about the comments, gibes, jokes, etc., we have had to endure to because they are not conforming to other’s expectations of them when they make running a part of their lives? I know that I have received my share of those off-hand compliments or cutting comments that make me think about why am I running.

Stop and think about the comments you have received from family, co-workers or even strangers about your running, each of us have probably heard some very interesting things and I am pretty sure that the runners you are looking at have as well.

Do you believe that other people who do not run, think we are conforming to their idea of the way life should be?

After all runners do something that the majority of people don’t do, have embraced a sport that is considered punishment in other sports and many of us have run in conditions that others think we are crazy or we get on the treadmill, in all the names that people have for it and run, and run, and run.

If you listen to runners talk, you will hear a lot about aches, pains and bodily functions like: blisters, nipples bleeding, chaffing between the legs or other body parts, farting, pooping, peeing, snotting, along with a few other *ings that probably I don’t really want to talk about here, where good places are to do those things on long runs are, in fact you are likely to hear runners talk about just about anything to do with their body and it might be with someone they just met a couple of minutes before.

Then you have our events…errr races, where just a few of us get together, dress in our finest shorts and t-shirts or whatever clothes are appropriate for the weather and then pay good money to run distances that others do not even try to walk, while interrupting traffic and causing non-runners to find alternative routes to get where they are going in our larger events.

Somehow in spite or is it despite all of our differences you find at many race over the course of a few minutes or hours we inexplicably become a community, where even though many are very competitive, they still hang around cheers other runners on after they finish, wait around to brag about about the misery that we brought upon ourselves in our attempts to run faster and/or farther than we have before and listen to the other runners tell their tales, all while still sweating amoungst others of our new community.

Yeah, that really sounds like a group of people that completely conform to the norms of polite society.

Are the people like me that you see out there running, conforming to the everyday norms in our society today?

God, I hope not.

Conforming to the running community?

While the running community is full of people who do not readily conform to the norms, running does have its own expectations and unwritten rules of the road that are more guidelines, with very few hard or fast rules – don’t cheat, run facing traffic and don’t be an ass. Oh yeah, my favorite don’t wear a race t-shirt that you haven’t earned by finishing or volunteering at that race (I break that one every so often).

Yeah for the pro runners, things might be a bit more organized, but for the rest of us figuring out whether someone is conforming to the running community’s standards…well you would have better luck herding cats.

camp sep 04 005-edited

Runners tend to run, do their own thing, follow and don’t really worry the finer points of conforming all that much to the running community, beyond how it affects their own running.

The reality is that

For me, someone who is now retired and really does not have to conform to much of anything other than not breaking the law (which is a form of conformity) or keeping within the norms that my life has to maintain a harmonious household, this writing prompt is one question that I have thought about more than once.

I think that many runners are non-comformists who use running to make the rest of their lives where they are constrained to conforming to what society or work requires of them. From my experiences and observations runners or should I say we tend to think differently and see the world from a different perspective than other people.

Which in my opinion, is not a bad thing and the fact that we challenge ourselves physically and mentally on a regular basis is a part of life that is missing for too many in today’s world.

The best part each one of us runners probably sees things and/or does things differently than most other runners, so while there is only a small amount of conformity in the running community, it is still a strong and vibrant community.

Personally the virtue I most request is not conformity, but rather the freedom to be different and still be accepted into a community.


I am still a proud member of Smith’s misfits and now hope that I always will be.

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