PREFACE: All names have been redacted, which is too bad, especially for the people responsible for The Awesome.
I’ve been blogging for 10 years and I work in web development. I frequent Reddit and Tumblr. No one knows how ugly the internet can be better than I do. But I also know how amazing it can be, which is why I continue doing what I do. But rarely…RARELY…does the internet surprise me anymore. Until yesterday.
Let me start with a tiny bit of background. We all know I adore my local running community. Well – I believe it is held together by two strong forces. First, our local Fleet Feet store which is owned and operated by a couple who gives tons to the community in terms of race support, race directors, training groups, and just general awesomeness. But the other force is a closed Facebook group called “We Run Huntsville”. You all have heard me mention it here because the director of that is also the amazing photographer I source in all of my race photos. On the WRH page we organize group runs throughout the city, we seek out race volunteers, and we ask for advice about compression sleeves. It’s a great resource for a local runner.
So! Fleet Feet + WRH = One Badass Running Community.
Sometime earlier this week I saw this pop up in the WRH group.
The second it popped up, I panicked. Because we are all very aware of how important of a store Fleet Feet is to our community and we very passionately support it. But! I have bought things elsewhere before because, every once in awhile, money is tight and I urgently need shoes. So, while I promote Fleet Feet every chance I get, I completely understand how sometimes you shop more for price, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But still…I was worried. And it went okay at first – some gave website suggestions, but most strongly encouraged shopping local.
But then, as everything does online, the thread got a little…off-topic. The comments started getting a little bit more passionate about A) The importance of supporting local stores even if it costs more and B) The crappiness of people who go into stores like Fleet Feet to get advice about what to buy and then buy online. Which someone kinda suggested (another moment when I groaned audibly.).
And of course, because things were getting weirdly heated, the original poster’s wife (they have a shared account) came back and clarified a bit and remarked and the venom that seemed to be coming with some of the posts.
And people apologized, re-aimed their commentary. Several made hilarious and lighthearted comments about pooping in trailers at retail stores (don’t ask), in general…people were trying to lighten the mood a bit. It was actually pretty hysterical. But, the thread had gotten long and the bad thing about FB is it doesn’t always show you everything and you don’t always have time to read everything before you jump in and comment. So, people were still getting notifications and feeling passionate and some people who were called out for their own practices were wanting to come back in to defend themselves. Someone VERY HILARIOUSLY linked to Godwin’s Law which states:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.
And you KNOW where it went from there. People started SERIOUSLY arguing about why you should support local businesses ANYWAY and various other claims in this post, and then OTHER people had to address the whole “NAZI” thing. It got kinda heated/ugly kinda fast.
But then? THEN? Something weird happened.
Which was a hilarious thing to offer. And then when the 100th comment was made?
The winner suggested giving it to the original poster who had since followed up with more of their story: Just trying to save money, 3 kids, just ran his first half-marathon and wants good shoes etc.
And the rest? Didn’t surprise me at all. Because the second I saw that guy offer to give the gift card to the original poster? I knew how my beloved community would react.
And it just escalated from there. The manager of the page threw in a WRH shirt. The guy who first threw out the term “Nazi” apologized and offered some more donations. Then, one of the owners of Fleet Feet popped in and offered to buy the shoes FOR the guy. It just became a huge love fest. And the original poster came back in very grateful.
The funny thing was, even after the owner of Fleet Feet said, “The shoes are on us!” – several people said, “Yeah, that’s cool and all, but we still want to give them our money.” It was hysterical. And just completely representative of how this community is. So, the owner came back with what she’d do.
I’m telling you. Even if you’re not part of the WRH facebook group (which you can be, anyone can join!) you can see the community at every race because we all fill all of the volunteer spots before/during/after every race. So, while I was surprised to see a flamewar take such a turn? I was not surprised by the support that spewed out of it. And then, on top of all of the volunteering for all of the BEAUTIFULLY run races (seriously – I’ve run small races in other town before and always come away reminded how amazing our community is) and all of the breakoff running groups and tips and guidance this community offers…they are also charitable. Big races have charities. Little races have charities. There are shoe drives and food drives. This community is ALWAYS trying to give back and this example on Facebook reminded me why I love them so much.
So, yeah. If you’re local? Pop by Fleet Feet. They do amazing things that make a loyal community of followers step up to defend them while simultaneously A) Discussing Poop and B) Collecting Money For Needy Runners.
You can’t ask for more than that out of your local running group.