I come across runners all day in Eugene. I see them cruise past our house along the sidewalk, on trails, on the road, in the parks and along the river. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are in groups, some are alone, and some are accompanied by kids in joggers that don't even realize the work that goes into their restful passage through town. Everywhere you go, at all hours of the day and night someone is out there in mini-shorts pounding the pavement. I used to examine each one and try to assess their abilities.
The hard core competitors are pretty easy to spot, as well as the beginners, but there is a whole group of folks in the middle that I watch as well. I used to notice the ones that really seemed to be hurting or were dragging their feet and smugly think that I could go faster. When I'm out there running myself sometimes I pass someone and sometimes someone will pass me. I used to think that anyone who passed me was a better runner. Once we started getting to the longer distances I had a new perspective. I was getting passed a lot by people who seemed to be speed-demons. Then, later on the trail I would see them sitting under a tree stretching. I'm sure there were plenty of people who saw me dragging along when we did our 20 miles who could have assumed that I was out of shape and a major wimp, which may, or may not be true. As I ran I had a LOT of time to think about this, and I decided that in some cases, the pace matches the distance.
And, here comes the moral....wait for it...Whenever you see someone who seems to be struggling, or whose feet seem to be dragging it can be easy to judge them. But, you never know how far they've gone, or how far they have to go.
I also used to assume that the people wearing the shortest shorts were the best runners, which Eugene has proven untrue.