This weekend I decided to complete and endurance challenge that entailed running one mile every hour for 24 hours. For fun. And as I was clicking away the hours, I started thinking about what a unique group of people runners are. Even though we have little subsets of runners (trail, road, obstacle course, adventure, etc), there are few things that we all understand and are universal truths. And a lot of these truths are things only runners get.
Because it takes a very specific type of person to think that staying up until 4am to run half a mile away from your nice, climate controlled home for no reason. There are lots of things runners say and do that can’t be explained or understood by the general population. So without further adieu, here are 10 insane things that only runners understand.
Things Only Runners Understand
1 – The value of a well-placed port-a-potty – It was not lost on me that during the beginning of the pandemic, when acquiring toilet paper was akin to starring in your own personal hunger games, that so many people decided to take up running. Sure, gyms are closed and running is a great way to stay in shape. But do people realize how much toilet paper runners use? Nothing gets things moving in the digestive system like the combination of coffee and running. Add in a little pre-run anxiety, and you’ll realize pretty soon the sheer joy of stumbling upon a port-a-potty just in the nick of time. Bonus points for trailside permanent restrooms with actual toilets.
2 – The joy of finding the perfect running fuel – Know what’s better than finding a running toilet in the midst of GI distress? Finding the fueling source that doesn’t cause any GI distress! The source of carbs or fat that allows you to continue to perform much longer than a reasonable human would want to. Without making you turn your easy jog into a speed session, looking for the most concealing set of bushes. It often takes runners several months or even years to figure out what fuel will work with their system, so when you do figure it out, it’s like winning the lottery. Or a free entry into the New York City marathon. Basically the same thing, in my opinion.
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3 – The importance of sunscreen – Being outside is great. Sunshine is therapeutic. But hours and hours of uninterrupted sun exposure is a guaranteed way to add a few years of age to your “look”. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. But skin cancer also sucks. So if sweatproof SPF-180 were a real thing, you bet we’d pay good money for it. For now we’ll settle for Coppertone Sport SPF 50.
4 – Saturday’s are not for sleeping in – They are the holy grail of long run days. Most of us don’t have the luxury of working in a 20 miler on a Tuesday. Because, well, most of us have bills to pay, which usually requires work. While the rest of the world enjoys a good, long snooze and 10am Starbucks run on Saturday, we’re already digging into breakfast number 2 by that time. Is getting up early to run for a long time required to be a runner? No, but most of us really look forward to the opportunity to enjoy the roads and trails without traffic, and have some time to recover and wash all of the running clothes. And early Saturday mornings are the perfect opportunity.
5 – Spending a small fortune on a “cheap” sport – We all collectively laugh when non-runners talk about how much money we must save in forgoing gym memberships and purchasing expensive workout equipment. I don’t even want to begin totaling up the amount of money I have spent on running shoes, trail shoes, clothes, gear, races, and travel over the past decade of running. But if I were a more responsible adult, I’d probably have paid off my entire student loan bill and had something left over. But I’m not a more responsible adult. I’m a runner. I have figured out How to Save Money On Running Gear, How to Reduce the Cost of Race Registrations, and How to Save on Destination Races. But even with all those little tricks and hacks, I’m still spending a healthy amount of money on this cheap hobby of mine.
6 – That the best vacations are runcations – While we’re on the topic of traveling for destination races (and how not cheap it can be), runners also know that the best vacations are runcations. A vacation that is planned with the intention of running a race at some point during the trip. It wraps a destination race and family vacation all into one. Most normal humans want to relax, unwind, and bask in the glory of extra sleep and exotic food during vacation travels. Runners on the other hand, often travel to remote destinations in national forests, eat a diet that is 70% bananas and gels, and wake up before God himself to get to a 5am gun time. On vacation. Even road marathons, which offer the luxuries of 5-star hotel accommodations, still require a whole lot more planning, early mornings, and food limitations than what most people would consider relaxing. But we love this sport, and there’s no better way to explore a new place than on your own two feet.
7 – The devastation of illness or injury – No one loves getting sick or being hurt. It’s uncomfortable, it’s unproductive, and it’s disruptive to life in general. Most people who find themselves injured probably ask, “how bad is it” as a means of gauging how much their body has been harmed. Runners ask that question as a way of gauging how much time they won’t be able to do the thing they love most. When runners get sick or injured, it often means missed races, training set backs, and feeling like prior efforts are not going to produce the results hoped for. And unfortunately, most of us runners are hard headed and stubborn, which often means we end up pushing our bodies to get back to running. Well before when a wise person would. Sometimes we have to learn the same lesson 6 or 7 times. But no matter how many times we learn it, injury and illness are often the things that haunt runners nightmares.
8 – The agony of chaffing – Chaffing is a serious matter. It is to be avoided just as intensely as high school acquaintances in your local grocery store. It can cause bleeding, blisters, and general misery on the course or run. And it doesn’t get any better after you stop running. In fact, the moment you forget about chaffing and hop into the shower is the moment you will come to terms with just how fragile the human body truly is. Do yourself a favor and find some sort of anti-chaffing product that works well for you. And apply liberally.
9 – The importance of the 3 S’s (sleeps, snacks, and salt) – Many a race and training plan have been quickly derailed from a lack of sleep, snacks, or salt. After my 24 miles in 24 hours running challenge, I can firmly attest to the lasting damage of missed sleep (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Want to make a runner your best friend? Find out when they plan to run their next long run. Show up at their house with a salty dinner, an amazing dessert, and then leave by 8:30pm.
10 – The bond of running buddies – Aside from the above mentioned bribe, there aren’t very many things that can cement a friendship like spending 2+ hours together on your feet. After all, what’s better than finding someone who doesn’t judge your combination of shorts and socks tan lines at the pool. Running buddies help keep the long runs entertaining, and know just how earth shattering tendonitis can really be. They also get why you keep running with that tendonitis, like an idiot. And they usually have a purse or backpack full of snacks, which never sucks.
The running community never ceases to amaze me. We are dedicated to this sport in a way that others would probably consider mildly psychotic. And that’s ok. Because not everyone needs to get why you wake up at 5am on your day off, or how amazing it is that you found a way to keep frozen grapes frozen in your cooler during your 20 miler. After all, there are just some things that only runners can understand.