To Selfie or Not to Selfie – That is the Question

I’m a selfie coach. No, really, I gave advice to a very well known marathoner named Kara on how to take selfies via Twitter. That story is yet to be told on my blog. But it’s a fun one & I am well-aware of how obnoxious it sounds.
Selfies have certainly become ubiquitous as many have obtained smartphones & learned how to angle themselves to the camera just right to get a candid photo. Even my baby niece has learned how to click the button on the phone to take the cutest first selfie EVER! (I may be biased. Just a little.)
But what about the rules of racing & selfies?
It’s quite simple- You’re not racing to your full potential if you’re taking a selfie during a race that you have entered with the purposes of a qualification time trial, a PR, or to measure up for the best place in a race that you’re capable of. In fact, you’re not racing.
I define racing as a competition of your best attempts for that race at speed over the course, whether it be in competition with others or yourself. I will never discount the courage it takes to get to a starting line as a runner (no matter your level, run/walk/jog/beginner/elite, just getting there is always a blessing, I give the Lord a prayer every starting line I am blessed to be on). But as much as I love selfies, you’ll never see me racing a road mile, any race on the track (could you imagine someone stopping to take a selfie on the track, no matter the pace or “fun run”?!) or any distance competitively, for time &/or place or a qualifying time, and wasting the time/effort/energy on a selfie that could cost me my goal pace/time/qualifier, or cause me to trip & fall or someone else to trip and fall from my slowing/stopping to take a selfie.
Aside from the safety implications, let’s be real: If you are on the track or road trying to race a PR (personal record) at a distance (I am commenting up to and including 26.2 miles, excluding trail racing & ultras because these rules wouldn’t completely apply, although an ultra pro I know said “I don’t take pics while racing. I race!”) why would you waste your time to take your phone out and take a selfie, costing you valuable seconds (or minutes if you’re insisting on posting to your socials) which could (in the case of a BQ attempt) cost you your entry into a race? Those same seconds could cost you a place if you’re racing to place the best rank that you can do on race day, as someone behind you that’s stronger than you (and possibly didn’t take a selfie) can outkick you.
You’re simply not giving the race your 110% undivided attention and effort. And that’s the definition of racing.
Yes, racing for time or racing for place can be two different things (attempting to get a Worlds/Olympic Trials qualifying standard vs racing for an Olympic medal). At USA nationals, or at the Olympics, you’re racing for place to medal in the top 3. That doesn’t always translate to racing for time. (It’s so much fun though, testing your strength against others’ in a trial of cat and mouse, matching surges, or patiently waiting to strategically outkick a competitor.)
Sometimes, there are runners that can BQ/AG place/etc while taking selfies along the way. That’s wonderful. That’s badass. But they’re still NOT RACING to their fullest potential.
You can get TO a race. Where all paces & types of running are welcome. You can take a selfie DURING a race. Absolutely. But you’re obviously not actually RACING.
See, racing means you’re giving it you’re absolute BEST attempt when you toe the line. You’re there to give it everything you’ve got, and, when it comes to a goal race, to let yourself cross the line to the point where you couldn’t give any more of yourself if you wanted to. That pain you put yourself through? Temporary. The pride in gunning after a goal no matter what obstacle got in your way? Forever. Leaving your heart out on the course, knowing there was nothing more you could do, is one of the most fulfilling feelings ever, no matter whether or not you made your goal. You simply couldn’t ask any more of yourself.
You may be saying, but wait! I’m only here to have fun. I’m the last person to tell you not to have fun. When I got back to this sport, some of my first cheer squad situations were hosting a Selfie Stop at marathons and half-marathons. (First lesson to self: A #SelfieStop at mile 26.1 of Boston Marathon is pretty much useless). I find racing for place to be immensely fun, matching surges, going step for step next to a competitor. I love it. But if your fun involves you taking selfies, you’re not racing. You’re at a race, running. (Or run/walking, or walking, doing SOMETHING, moving FORWARD, doing something great for yourself). It may absolutely be fun, but it’s not genuinely racing.
But wait! My race plan went to poop. So I decided to enjoy the rest of my race, and I took selfies, and I still had a great race & time! Yes, you had a great run, but you were no longer racing for the best time or place you could have had you not wasted your time with selfies. But did you have fun? Yes? Awesome! I’m all about the love of the run and the love of the sport.
We tend to ask runners of all levels, paces, competitive, non-competitive, professional, elite, collegiate- “How was your race?”. When non-runners ask, often times they don’t know how to differentiate between the definition of racing & putting your best attempt forward versus running at a race and not being competitive, doing it for the fitness aspect and taking a selfie because you’re simply not as serious about your run that day. Or it really genuinely doesn’t matter if you stop because you just need to get the miles in, no matter the pace. When I ask “how was your race?” I have competitive friends that will immediately differentiate between racing and running – they would comment and say, “Oh, well I wasn’t really racing, it was just a tempo workout for me” or “I didn’t race, just wanted to shakeout”. And my non-competitive runner friends will say “My race was great!” It’s an interesting difference of semantics.
Now, I love selfies. It’s what I’m “known for” in my small social media presence (Obnoxious and not for everyone, I’m well aware. But my old team gave me a “Selfie of the Year” award, and hey, it stuck. So why not? Smile and make someone else smile! I fully believe in complimenting a stranger daily – you never know if it will make their day). It’s a major part of model life. It’s what I do in my runner life as well – when I’m not racing. I’m currently coming off of injury. I’m trying to heal a broken body in more ways than one. I was hoping to train enough to sustain the strength for a 10k tomorrow (I’ll be running/run/walking/jogging (?) the Atlanta Peachtree 10k!) but I’ve done 3 miles in the past week. It’s 3x more miles per week than I’ve ran in all of 2017. And it’s July. For all intensive purposes just starting on the line will be purely for fun. I have strength training and physical therapy that I’m going through. It’s painful just to type this right now. Since January 2016, I have not put on a pair of spikes, or a pair of lightweight trainers in an effort for a speed workout. I’ve simply not been cleared to. I’ve run at races, but I wasn’t racing – there was no speed in it, there was no all-out effort to race. I simply ran. But these injury situations? They hurt. They are disheartening. But fall down 7 times, get up 8, right?
Tomorrow I’ll have one of my best friends of all time at my side. He is a champion, American record-holding swimmer (sprint swimmer), former D1 athlete, and a complete fish-out-of-water when it comes to running. I don’t even think he has real running shoes! I initially signed up to race Peachtree because of him – he lives in Atlanta, he wanted to have fun & drink the whole way (typical swimmer mentality haha) & I was going to finish the race at race paces in what was hopefully a comeback to racing, turn around, and go get him. Sadly life had other plans for me, and instead of my hopeful A wave-qualified start, I am dropping back to T wave, and planning on having a blast talking to others, trying to get him to run when he doesn’t want to, and taking all the selfies along the way! I can’t even define this as a “run” for myself – it’s just going to be a good time. I’m planning to high five all the kids, dance at all the dance stops, and just smile! (Just like I did the NYC marathon!) He’s challenged me to sprint it in at the end as of last night… not sure how I’m taking that at the moment! All I know is that my body is probably not ready to go all out for a kick, I am most likely risking re-injury lol… Lord help me tomorrow in the heat of the moment, literally and figuratively haha 😉
Let’s take a look at why the conversation has started and become a curious one (for me, at least). I cannot have respect for you in your running if you are a public figure for running companies stating that your serious running goal is to BQ for months over at least 2 different marathons & you take selfies & upload to social media during your race when you should be focusing on a time you are barely slated by all PR calculations to make even if you had the most perfect race day. You claim you wanted to run faster than you ever have before, but stopped & uploaded selfies mid-race. You were not racing with everything you had, nor did you give it all of your energy & focus at the time of the selfies. It makes me question whether or not you were as serious as you had claimed to be in doing the best that you could on race day, even though we all know the only person we need to race for and be truest to is ourselves. A blogger did this during the London Marathon, after months of “shopping around” the project of attempting to BQ to potential sponsors (she stated this on a podcast interview). When she secured sponsors and payment throughout the training, she went on to call her sports psychologist during the race in the hopes he would tell her to quit the marathon after she already wasted time on selfies and uploading. What’s confusing to me is taking the selfies at the cost of precious seconds from a BQ. Take the photo and move on! A few seconds isn’t the worst if it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, but taking more than that for something you’re already cutting it close for? And if you know anything about a BQ, it isn’t an easy goal for most runners. It requires many runners multiple attempts, and a dedication to training that isn’t easily maintained. It takes a lot of strength to BQ, and it takes many a very long time to get there. Running is hard, no doubt. But overcoming what is difficult is what makes you stronger. Keep trying. What was hard before can become easier.
I have every ounce of respect for anyone who makes it to a starting line, no matter what pace they are. I am the one that will cheer you on, whether you’re an Olympic champion or you are walking through a marathon. All paces. I can share with you the pain of trying to run for the first time ever, no matter what level of athlete you are or aren’t. I’ve been there – the first mile I tried to run in training for a marathon after a long while away from the sport was the hardest ever. I will push for you and encourage you to do the best that you can, no matter where you’re at in being the strongest version of you. At the end of the day, all you can ask from yourself is the best you can give. And so many times, you don’t realize that the human body is capable of so much more when you dig deep. Strong looks different on everyone.
At the end of the day, you’re not racing if you’re taking selfies. Just my humble opinion. You may define racing differently than I do, and I’m happy to hear your thoughts and in the end may agree to disagree. You define your own goals for a race, and if it’s for time/rank or qualification, then wasting time on a selfie will not contribute to that goal. I don’t look down upon you in any way, shape, or form if you take selfies while running at a race, but I definitely believe you aren’t giving every last bit of energy & dedication to your race and therefore aren’t seriously racing. Which, of course, is okay! The beauty of being a runner in the community is that we are so immensely inclusive. There is nothing wrong with that, to each their own, but do not claim that you are racing for time/place/qualification, take selfies, and then be upset when you don’t make your goals. The only person you can blame at that point is yourself. The truest definition of racing is a competition of speed &/or strategy, and no matter whom you define your competition as, yourself or others, you’re surely not giving it 100% if you have claimed to go after time &/or place and taken the time & energy away from your race in taking selfies. If you’re running for fun, and not for time/place/qualification or just starting and enjoying yourself, then by all means, take all the selfies and document your journey towards fitness! Share your true love for the sport! Because at the end of the day, the journey is yours to take. Strong looks different on everyone. Get at your strong.
One Love. Run Love. Xo.

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Aysha is a sometimes writer, full-time cheerleader for #TrackNation who has an affinity for modeling on high-fashion runways in Vogue and formerly coached Olympian Kara Goucher on the art of the selfie in her spare time. Her educational background involves a serious love of science and medicine, with a dual-degree in Cell Biology & Neuroscience/Psychology, and accompanying research in Stem Cell Biology. Founder of #MuslimModelsMatter, #StrongInMyMakeup & an advocate for #RunnersAgainstCheating, Aysha believes that #StrongLooksDifferentOnEveryone & won't hesitate to remind others of this truth. She is based in NJ/NYC and currently coached by Rob DeCarlo. Her most epic run was her first marathon, NYC 2013. But her heart is rooted in racing 5ks, cross country and as a miler on the track, where she happily earned 2 NCCWMA silver medals representing the United States in the 1500m & 800m August of 2017. Current dreams include racing at the Olympic Trials exhibitions one day. Oh, and a BQ/Boston Marathon when she backs off the return to speed. You can tweet her some love and contact her with @ModelAyshaMirza.

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