Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Looking Strong Big Guy"

You are entering the world of the unintentional de-motivator. Where a well meaning cheer to inspire and validate causes the exact opposite emotion in the recipient. Instead of complimenting the strained roundness of a big, red, shiny fully inflated balloon, you’ve unintentionally let the air out. Pffffttttt. Nice job, pinhead. Congratulations. Head on home and try not to kick a puppy on the way.

If you’ve done this, you are a De-Motivator.

I will be taking to the streets of Cincinnati this Sunday for the Flying Pig Marathon (which is waaay awesomer than the lame Phoenix Rock N’ Roll Marathon by the way*) with my friend. We will tame Cin City as a duo. We’ll be Batman and Robin (without the homoerotic overtones and “tingly” senses.) When this plan was hatched, the first thing my friend mentioned is that, while running with him, I’ll get to hear all the times people say to him “looking strong big guy.” Which he hates.

To be fair, he is bigger than the average U.S. male. He’s about 6’1-2” and roughly 200 lbs give or take. Not exactly gigantic…just the next size up from average. Go ahead and click on his site here and see for yourself (that’s him on the left). Not exactly Andre the Giant, right? Nowhere near Hurley from Lost either. Both of those guys I’d give a “Looking strong big guy” too.

So, what gives? And who thinks it is motivating to say “looking strong big guy?” By doing so, you are (a) implying that the person is a little on the LARGE side and (b) doing surprisingly well for someone so LARGE. It’s really a backhanded compliment and not one you want to hear 20 miles into a race.

I wonder if these same folks hang outside of Jenny Craig facilities just so they can compliment the patrons with “Hey, you aren’t nearly as big as I thought you’d be. You are at least 4 sizes down from the moon. Good job!”

Or tell a pimple faced teen that their pock marked cheeks look more like simple hail damage rather than asteroid craters. Good for you! (Add a wink and a thumbs up.)

Sure, I’ve caught myself marveling at the real short guy in front of me with those tiny little legs turning over two steps for my one and wondering how in the hell he keeps that pace. But, never in a million years, did I consider saying “Wow, despite the fact that you appear to be built to the perfect size to retrieve things I’ve lost down my backyard well, you are really fast!”

(Well, I considered it. But didn’t say it.)

Have you ever received one of those back handed compliments before? One of those moments where someone with a well intentioned, smiling face just sucked the life right out of you with an ill-timed or poorly worded comment?

Just to be clear, as a spectator you should probably never say the following:

“Wow, great job! I never thought you’d make it this far!” (Said at mile 5 of a marathon)
“Hey, thanks for helping but the volunteers should get out of the way of the runners!” (But you’re not a volunteer)
“You are the fastest plus size model on earth!”
“Aww, how cute! Look at you run!”
“Awesome job overcoming your disability!”
(Though you have no disability.)
“Don’t worry, the aid stations are still open. Keep going!”

If you shout any of these things – even with the biggest smile on your face – you are an Unintentional De-Motivator. Please consult my spectator cheering advice post from last year for help.

I think the closest I ever came was during the Disney Marathon when an aid station worker started following me down the road waving a cup of Gatorade in my face and saying “You look like you really need this.” Er, thanks. I think. Truth is, I did so no hard feelings.

As this Dynamic Duo hits the streets of Cincinnati, I’ll have my Looking Strong Big Guy (LSBG) meter ready to count. We’ll see how many Jokers there are out there.

For now, the LSBG meter is prepped, ready and set to zero.

Happy trails.

* Mainly because no one ever describes that one with the word “awesomer.”

33 comments:

Lily on the Road said...

Well then, let me be the first to say, have a great race you two big guys, and truly, you aren’t nearly as big as I thought you’d be!

Shannon said...

Hopefully you won't hear this...."Wow your balls look big in those tights...."

Did I read your wearing tights!?!

LOL.....

Xenia said...

It's like when you lose weight and people tell you how great you look. I know they mean well, but they're basically saying I looked like lard beforehand. Even if I did, I don't want to know that.

Btw, I thought Spiderman had the tingly sense, not Batman.

Kristina said...

Yeah, there's nothing like busting your ass and being patronized by people sitting in beach chairs with a beer in hand. I've had spectators tell me to smile several times during races and I just want to smack 'em.

nwgdc said...

If you ARE in fact wearing tights, I hope someone tells you "Man, I thought I'd be able to see your package through those tights. Guess not!"

And as for Batman/Robin, does this mean when your baby cows go nuts, will there be little exploding cartoons that say "KA-POW" and "BOOM!" ?

tfh said...

Yeah, I would like spectators to know that "wow" has no place in their comments. I've gotten, "wow, you're doing great," and "wow, still hanging in there!" and "wow, you ran a really great race" none of which makes me feel at all good about the way I must look while running.

Marlene said...

This doesn't qualify as a backhanded compliment but DOES fall under the category of stupid spectator comments" You're almost there!" (at mile 10)

Roisin said...

I'm with Xenia on this one...I've definitely been the recipient of a few "wow...you look great! so much better than in high school!"

Booo on that.

But good luck to you on Sunday!

Spike said...

enjoy the Flying Pig, remember its all downhill after the never ending uphill.

the worst thing I've ever heard was some shouting "don't worry, lots of other people have given up and started walking too."

Marcy said...

Hmmmm I'm sure I've gotten one before but I just can't remember. I did however get a "Come on, if you're smiling your not working hard enough" comment from some volunteer at the marathon. I considered using him as a Port A Port for a second but just decided to laugh and carry on.

Al's CL Reviews said...

Besides the
"You run? No, really! You run?" comment that I get, I think the guy who asked if I wanted his dog to pull me through the race was the biggest insult. But that wasn't really backhanded...pretty forehanded.

Al's CL Reviews said...

Good luck on the race!

Sun Runner said...

Good luck in Cincy. Show those Ohio folks how we do things up here in Michigan. Watch your back in Kentucky.

Vanilla said...

The flying pig marathon is not awesomer than the PFC RNR Marathon because I won't be there.

Also there's a "flying pig? - swine flu!" joke in there somewhere but I'm too lazy to find it and just annoying enough to ruin it for anyone after me that might think of it.

Running and living said...

I belong to a large mom's running club, and I don's see much of these women outside of running. But when I happen to see them, they never fail to say: "You look so pretty, I only see you in your running clothes". I guess I look like crap when I go running...
Good luck with your race. Can't believe you are running another marathon so close to Boston. I can't even think about doing a 5K right now. Ana-Maria

Carly said...

I always get the back handed compliments as a full figured runner. This post made LOL....

Good luck at the Pig!

aron said...

have a great race this weekend!!!

Tall Girl Running said...

Totally un-running related, but I once had a boss comment to me during a work luncheon, "Wow, you've got an enormous appetite!" Actually... maybe that's why I started running.

Knock 'em dead this weekend!

joyRuN said...

WTF?! From that pic, he's nowhere near "big guy".

Good luck & have fun this weekend :)

Jessica said...

Good luck Nitmos!! I will be thinking healthy calf thoughts for you! Have fun!

Bill said...

Here's one I got before a 5k (I'm 5 foot 7, about 230)... "You're running it? Really?"

I beat him by the way.

sRod said...

The guy behind the counter at my gym alternates between "big guy" and "boss" when he says hello in the morning. I'm 170 lbs and 5'11," big is not a word people use to describe me. So I'm not sure if I should take offense.

Beth said...

I've noticed that the more pitiful I look at a race, the more "you look great" comments I get. I guess I look like I need a lot of encouragement... and I kind of do. Good luck at the race to you and your super hero buddy.

theloosemoose said...

GOOD LUCK!! I hope that you and your freakishly large, absurdly oversized friend have a great time.
Just kidding - I clicked on the link to see his pic. He doesn't look that big to me. I'm pretty sure I could take that guy. (Not sexually "take him", mind you, but maybe in an arm wrestling match or a donut eating contest.)

Ali said...

My guy friend, Andy, got the exact same "compliment" once at a road race. He's a 2:32 marathoner and he just about punched the guy.

I'm a Michigander runner too : )

The Laminator said...

The worse I've ever gotten is a hearty laugh when I mentioned to a friend that I ran a marathon the first time I did it. I gave him a look and then he's like "Oh, you were being serious..." I don't know if I was more p-'d off by the first insult or the second one.

Good luck tackling the Pig this weekend.

Viper said...

When I was weak and needed a walk break just shy of 20 miles in my first marathon, I encountered a traffic cop at an intersection who said, "Don't quit now."

Bitch.

Irish Cream said...

In an attempt to be a supportive runner/friend, I once ran the JPMC Challenge with a co-worker who had just started running. We kept what was a really slow pace for me, but I wanted to make sure that my co-worker had a good first race experience. When we got back to our firm's tent at the end, another co-worker immediately asked me my time and then gloated that she "beat the marathoner!" I suppose I should have taken her excitement over "beating" me as a compliment, but I really just wanted to smack the sh*t out of her . . .

Anyway, best of luck this weekend!

jen said...

Good luck big guy!

X-Country2 said...

Large and in charge!

AKA Alice said...

One of my husband's co-workers effusively congratulated us for being pregnant again.

I wasn't

I'm pretty sure that's when I started running...

Have a great race this weekend!

John at Hella Sound said...

As a legitimately big guy, let me tell you that the "big guy" thing is no fun. But there is some solace in knowing that I can tie most folks that say it in a knot (that's usually my thought when I hear it).

Some of these things you guys are reporting are definitely eff-bomb worth--at least in my book. Except maybe the "your balls look big in those tights". That's actually okay. Sort of.

Kick some butt!

Run For Life said...

Have a good race!

Around mile 21 I got, "Relax your face muscles and you'll run faster!" I picked up the pace just to get away from him, lol.