In starting this post, I found some cool stats on the Running USA website. In 2013 there were over 15 million race finishers in the US. At one single race, over 55 thousand people crossed the line. This surge in popularity points to a ‘cool’ label for running that definitely did not exist when I started seventeen years ago. But even with the acceptance of running, there is still a niche that is definitely not mainstream. Many run to get outside, stay in shape, socialize, but the smallest group seems to be the ones that are hitting their personal limits. Whether or not they are located at the front of the pack is irrelevant, to focus on eking the most speed and potential from oneself will probably never be the ‘in’ thing. Following are a couple of factors associated with hitting those limits that are just too gnarly or unique to become trendy.
*Disclaimer : Not all of the following relate to fast runners only, but to people who make style or being ‘normal’ on the back burner, sacrificing nothing to achieve their potential. It is also tongue in cheek, so please don’t any kind of offense to it. Reading further is an admission that you have understood the disclaimer and will not blame any damage done to your electronics while experiencing a fit of righteous rage, on the author.
In all honesty, yes I know it is not a good sign to puke or heave during or after a run. But it is hard to question whether or not you put it all out there when you grab your knees after crossing the finish line and attempt to keep your innards on the right side. This, thankfully, is not a common experience, luckily for all the spectators and ever-present race photographers. Not that anyone would rush to pay $30 for a shot of the partially digested pre race snack. Apparently my mom has no such qualms as one of her favorite shots is of me losing my breakfast after a rookie mistake in my very first road race. In the finish chute. The expression on the face of the guy behind me was quite amusing. In regards to workouts, I have been known to hit track repeats until I’m ready to lose the lunch that left my stomach hours ago. Not a beautiful moment, and not exactly break room conversation, unless you are lucky enough to work with others that crazy as well.
This is really a male issue, as it is accepted that women can wear short shorts in public. However for men, the accepted shorts length reaches back decades to the time when adolescent boys wore long pants. Loose fitting and nearly mid calf, it is not much more freeing than pants. Even my casual shorts are not quite the cool cut, as I prefer them above the knee. Running shorts are another thing entirely. Purchased purely for practical reasons, they are worn with lightness and freedom in mind. They expose an expanse of thigh and appalling tan lines. But looks must be sacrificed for comfort. The average Joe would definitely have nothing to do with something so flimsy, and we shall not even mention the side cut ones that are reminiscent of the 70s.
Another male only issue, as women are even comfortable wearing these as casual clothing. A man in tights brings images of ballerinas, Robin Hood, or just absolute confusion. Men just don’t wear tights. When the temps drop below 30 degrees, or as decided by the wearer, bare legs are just not an option. Warm up pants are obnoxiously noisy and constricting, so in spite of the questionable connections an observer might make, those tights are a necessary part of the winter running regimen.
4. Safety gear (vests/lights)
There is absolutely nothing cool about a bright yellow reflective vest. Know what is less cool? Getting hit by a car. I actually recently upgraded to a vest that consists mostly of flashing led ropes so I look like a psychedelic running work of art, or somebody with a serious attention issue, but it is preferable to ending up a hood ornament. Same goes with carrying Knuckle Lights or a flashlight while an LED blinker is bouncing against your tail end. The majority of people would just skip the run because it is dark or hop on a treadmill.
This one is a bit dubious, as mud runs have become quite popular. But it is a bit hard to stay clean while putting the miles on in any location, as your running shoes could probably attest to. Sometimes it is possible to even return from a run with substances you can’t identify stuck to your shoes or running off your calves. In a related bit of something I could identify, one time I came home from a long run and realized I had managed to cleverly catch a bit of bird poop…..on my knee. I guess that is a compliment to my stride. Still another topic not acceptable for water cooler conversation.
See, there is sweat, and there is sweat. There are people who don’t run hard enough to do more than have a mild sheen, there is my wife who gets a beautiful glistening look, and then there is me, after a tempo run in the summer. I’m not the kind that rains sweat, thankfully, but when my loving wife and children will dodge kisses, you know the general public has got a few questions in mind. Namely, “are you mad?!” The answer, of course, is yes. You don’t reach your full potential by keeping a comfortable pace.
Most people see the weekend as an escape from routine. Time to stay up late, sleep in, eat bad food and just in general let go. Only the faithful would be in bed by ten for a race, wake by 5, eat like a monk to be properly fueled, and call it a good weekend. Sometimes it does not even have to be a race weekend as the most rigorous of training schedules ask for a focus that must last for weeks or months on end. For those that race constantly all year, it is rare to get a true off weekend, barring injury or inescapable plans. Of course those plans had to be made by someone who doesn’t recognize the importance of running 8 miles at 8 am on a Saturday morning, followed by the perfect post run fueling and a hot shower.
8. Snot rockets
Nobody I have ever met had a habit of carrying kleenex while running. It just isn’t practical. So what happens when a runner has a cold, or debris in the air must be cleared from the nostrils? We have two choices. The first is to suck it back and hawk a loogie, which some people will just not do. The other is to deftly hold a nostril closed with the finger and forcefully expel air and….well other things that reside within that particular canal. Of course, it is common courtesy to make sure the ‘splash zone’ is clear, but there is no easy way for an innocent observer to forget the sound and sight of that particular act.
In summary, while it seems more people are stepping outside with the latest trendy running shoes and snarky shirts, there is still a group at the race that is decidedly uncool. While the fair weather runners bring more exposure for the events and instill a desire for the newest and best version of the Nike Free so that most stores carry 20 different color schemes leaving the other options stuffed in the backroom, it is those that head out in the cold, the hot, sweating in a desire to reach their full potential at whatever speed it may be, who make the true soul of running. They are the crazy, the devoted, the ones who rank social acceptance while pursuing their passion somewhere around how pretty they looked on their last selfie posted on social media while mid workout.
You know what they all have in common?
They get that question…“Why do you run? I only run when I am getting chased.”
While the answer that returns is probably very polite and calm, they are the ones that are thinking, as they mentally lace up their shoes and flex their muscles…
“Because if I ever get chased, I will be ready.”