Face vs. Butt

With my bike perched on the trainer in the basement, I plugged in my headphones and began the hour long easy-paced ride. For the first part of the ride, I skipped the tunes and went to catch up on some podcasts of Endurance Planet — a website which offers podcasts, articles and products for runners, cyclists, triathletes and adventure racers.

During a discussion about the trademark infringement case filed by The North Face (“Never Stop Exploring”) against a college kid who started a company The South Butt (“Never Stop Relaxing”) the topic of elitism came up.

First, the conversation talked about the lawsuit filed by The North Face against The South Butt claiming the line of t-shirts and fleece products are “causing confusion, mistake and deception among the general purchasing public.” The South Butt is a parody of The North Face, started by a 19-year old to in part mock his high school friends.

The whole idea that someone can confuse a Face with a Butt is highly entertaining conversation in and of itself, and yet it gives us a perfect analogy for the ensuing discussion on elitism and the uneasy divide between “hard core” trail running and “mainstream” trail running.

There are those who bring media attention to the sport of trail running. Albeit “media attention” is a relative term. No matter how ripped Dean Karnazes’ torso is, he likely won’t be headlining SportsCenter anytime soon.

There are others who resent the media attention. Heck, some very good trail runners are trail runners because they don’t want to be around other people. They crave the solitude of the trails and even eschew racing. Still others apparently argue that the people with the most talent aren’t getting the attention they deserve while less talented runners will get sponsorships and coverage in the niche press. (See the battle of Dean and Scott Jurek circa 2007).

It again brought up the marathon debate — the feeling among some in endurance running that a six or seven hour marathon is disrespectful and that charity runners have turned the once hallowed marathon into a joke.

And at the end of the day, I wonder, can’t we all just get along?

Isn’t there room for both the hard core ultra trail runner and the person who wants to enjoy a race on a local trail with friends? Isn’t there room for someone to strive to run a marathon in less than three hours along with those who are struggling at the back of the pack to finish something that to them is much more intricate and important than mile splits?

Do we really need to create a culture with rules, regulations, limits and lawsuits to help us distinguish a face from a butt?

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