by Halen Gori in Stories, image by Joe Athialy

Running is a mental sport…with a little dash of insanity

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Runners pride themselves on being runners.  We are quirky, we have strange rituals and routines, we use strange terms like ‘fartlek’, ‘bonk’ and ‘plyometric’. We are a band of misfits to some but a large, empowered group of brothers and sisters to each other.   Often I think about how others see runners. I mostly ponder this when dressed in normal clothes, freshly showered and looking like an ordinary human. Do I seem quirky? Do people watch me and notice the little idiosyncrasies of the endurance athlete?

I was sitting at a local coffee shop the other day working on my computer, water bottle and smart phone on the table top. It was Monday, which is long run day in my world, and I had done a medium long run of 12 miles earlier that morning. Not too terribly strenuous. I paused in my thought process to cross my legs and that’s when it hit…the muscle cramp. Inner thigh muscle cramp to be exact, or maybe hip flexor…either way, I’m sure my face contorted into something resembling, “oh crap!” as my sharp intake of breath preceded a low moan until the cramp subsided. Did anyone notice?? I was actually afraid to look, so I didn’t. Such events are actually quite common and among the many situations where non-runners get total validation for their reasons behind not running and fellow runners point while doubling over with laughter.

Do I seem quirky? Do people watch me and notice the little idiosyncrasies of the endurance athlete?

I also tend to have trouble sitting for long periods of time. I’ve been known to stand in the back of the room during professional conferences to stretch my legs. I mean literally stretch, the hamstrings, quads, calves… I was on an airplane flying across the country last week and after several hours of sitting I was getting antsy. I looked at the seat in front of me and wondered if anyone would notice if I put myself in a pike position with my legs up in the air against the seatback in front of me. Normally, I would not care but it was a packed flight and I was wearing flip-flops. Runners don’t have the prettiest feet. I decided against it and suffered through the rest of the flight in solitude.

Recently, my nose started to run and my first instinct was to blow a snot rocket. If you don’t know what that is, check out, you will be truly enlightened. Then, I realized I was wearing nice clothing and driving in the car. Gross. I grabbed a tissue.

Yes, we runners are fanatical about all sorts of things, like our shoes. Do you know any runner who has less than four pair of running shoes? You better bet all four of those pairs are being used too. The trail shoes, the new shoes, the long distance shoes, the fast shoes… then there are all the retired shoes. This can account for up to 5 more pairs and take up any number of baskets, bins, shelves or floor space. We have the best of intentions to donate them. Really.

Being a runner, I do not laugh or sneer at the person wearing what appear to be knee socks in the middle of summer with shorts and a t-shirt. That’s compression baby and while not very attractive, it sure works! Then there is all the gear. Gear, meaning GPS and non-GPS watches, iPods, fuel belts, gel flasks, Headsweats visors, hydration backpacks, arm warmers, compression sleeves…I could go on and on. It all serves a purpose and it is all absolutely needed! Ok, maybe not all of it but it is sure fun to play with! Then you have the digital applications. Training software, sites to map and measure elevation, training logs, countless USB cords to plug in all the techie stuff so runs can be downloaded to a computer and analyzed to death. Yes, the runner is a master record keeper and analyst when it comes to every step of every training run, race and walk around the block with your 5-year-old on her bike (that counts as weekly mileage right?). Recently, I traveled for a few days and realized my carry-on was so full of cables, chargers and other stuff for my running pleasure that I barely had room for my purse. GPS can become an addiction. Split times, an obsession. When does this start to become unhealthy?

All of this and I haven’t even broached the subject of nutrition yet. I think that subject is best left for another day. Maybe tomorrow, when I’m not feeling so quirky.

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