Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are you a Runner or a Jogger?


Are you a “real” runner? Or are you a jogger? This article is written for real runners, and those who want to be. In the pages that follow are listed the essential qualities of this small but wonderful group of people.


On a few of the pages that follow the differences between a real runner and a jogger are pointed out, but for the most part, this book concentrates on illustrating and celebrating the lifestyle of the real runner.


Several years ago, in an attempt to avoid the middle-age bulge, I started to run a few times a week. Later that year I entered a local 5K. There I noticed several folks, who seemed to stand out from the rest of those preparing for the race. They were speaking of mountain runs, long runs and party runs, and had a zest for running and life that was quite contagious.


My first impression was that these particular folks had taken the enthusiasm I had in high school cross-country to a ridiculous extreme. Over the next several months I got to know a few of these runners, and discovered that they were indeed a unique breed. Their life revolved around running! Their social, economic, recreational, and spiritual lives were all influenced, and to a great extent intertwined with running. They weren’t just runners. They were genuine or REAL runners. Despite my hesitation at the time, I have become one of these real runners.


As I made this transition from running occasionally, to having it become a dominant theme in my life, I became quite proud of all the positive things happening to my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I felt somehow different (and tougher or stronger) than other people: especially other “casual” runners.


One thing really bothered me though, and it is the reason I wrote this article. That is, when other people, particularly those who jog a couple of miles three times a week, would hear of some aspect of my running, and comments something like, “oh, I jog too!” I felt like what I do, and what they do, were worlds apart. I thought to myself: “I don’t do what they do, they’re joggers, and I’m a real runner”. Hence, the title: Real Runners Don’t Jog.
If you are a real runner, know one, or would like to be one, I think you will enjoy this book. It is not meant to be too serious.


Real Runners versus Joggers
Jogging: A popular form of exercise and recreation in which a person runs at a steady, moderate pace. The actual pace depends on the individual’s ability, but it should be one at which the jogger can talk without becoming breathless.
Real runners must praise and curse a man by the name of Bill Bowerman. He was and is one of the great real runners of all time. Few have done more to promote running than he has. He also is perhaps most responsible for the jogging craze. And as you will soon learn (if you don’t already know) real runners are not joggers!
Drawing upon the work of Arthur Lydiard, Bill Bowerman introduced fitness running to America. He was and is a real runner. This pioneer real runner has impressive credentials: he guided the University of Oregon track program to four NCAA team championships, 33 individual NCAA and national titles, coached 11 Olympians and 10 sub-4-minute milers. He also, along with Phil Knight, started a little company called Nike.
He invented the waffle sole for running shoes, served as head coach of the U.S. Olympic track team and essentially introduced fitness running to the world through his book: Jogging! Go figure! Back in those days jogging was okay for real runners. But the immense growth in popularity of running led to a separation. For real runners this was a bittersweet day. Running became legit. You could actually see road races on television (usually at 3am albeit). But, with this new-found recognition came the masses of….joggers!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for good health and exercise. I think everyone should run! It promotes good physical, spiritual, emotional, and community health. But, let us face the facts. There are a small group of crazies referred to here as real runners. They eat, sleep and breathe running. They are proud of it and consider it the higher path. And, there are also a much larger group of people who are trying to exercise and manage a couple of slow miles a week. These two groups are as different as night and day.
Joggers. They are everywhere. I know you (especially you) have seen them around. They are usually overweight, you can usually hear them wheezing, they are almost always dressed in polyester sweats (however the ones who can afford it might wear designer sweats), wearing terry-cloth headbands, MP3 players plugged into their ears, and they are often seen holding a leash with a dog pulling them (usually a poodle). These are joggers. Some of them are very nice people. However…
Before these joggers were all over the place a real runner was NEVER mistaken for a jogger. Back in the days before jogging, the entire populace of the world could be divided into real runners and non-runners – and the real runners were very few. Lest we forget, in those days there were no jogging suits, IPODs, waffle soles, jog bras or (shudder) treadmills. Real runners were considered in shape and insane - and not necessarily in that order.
These days’ people confuse real runners for joggers! Confusing a real runner with a jogger is like confusing a mountain lion with a house cat. It is hard to believe I know, disgusting for sure, a gross misjudgment at the very least. If you are a real runner, I’m sure this has happened to you. You meet someone and they say, “I saw you out JOGGING the other day”. Or when they learn that you run, they say, thinking they have common ground, “Oh, I JOG too.” Most real runners want to scream out, “I’m not a stinking jogger!” or something worse. But they usually don’t, they just mumble “oh yea” under their breath. But they are thinking to themselves, “this bozo is comparing a jogger who walks at the mall, to a real runner, come on, I’ve done four marathons!”
And so, this book is written to help illuminate the world by defining what constitutes a real runner and illustrating the differences between real runners and joggers.
The next time you get mistaken for, or lumped with the joggers, you can just hand them this book and say: “read this!”
What Is A Real Runner?
Real runners come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. Obviously they like to run. In fact, they are pretty serious about it. Real Runners are evangelists. They are always trying to get others to run. They believe running is the solution to all personal, economic, social and international problems. About this they are right.
A real runner likes to run. It can be in the rain or snow, up and down hills, in the dark, alone, through traffic, early in the morning, and countless other seemingly bad conditions. But it is running, therefore it is great!
Real runners are consistent. They usually don’t miss runs. Many real runners have streaks of days, weeks, months or years in which they haven’t missed their scheduled runs, miles, races, or running events. This is because to the real runner runs are like meals. You can miss a few once in while, but they are essential to good health and happiness.
Who Are Real Runners?
All wheel chair marathoners are real runners. Former president Bill Clinton is a jogger. President George Bush is a real runner. Oprah is a real runner.
Everyone who “runs” a marathon is a real runner. All race walkers are joggers.
Don’t Real Runners Jog?
Joggers don’t run. Real Runners never jog. Sometimes real runners run very slow, but they are recovering, warming up, cooling down, in between intervals, or healing. They might even be just running slow! But they are not jogging, because then they would be joggers, wouldn’t they?
A few years ago it was accurate to call this slow running by real runners “jogging”. In the same way it used to be accurate to call a happy person “gay” – but no longer.
Real runners do long runs, tempo runs, intervals, races, hills, adventure runs, speed changes, pick-ups, cool downs, and recovery runs. Joggers just jog (well actually joggers usually sit or walk).
What Real Runners Wear
Some people say that running is such a pure sport because there is almost no equipment required. All you need is a pair of shoes. This is definitely not the case with the real runner.
Real runners may feed you this line about “just give me the open road and a pair of shoes”, but don’t fall for it. There is certain equipment that real runners must have, and the list isn’t that short. Shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, watch, drinks are among the items on the list. But be careful! Not just any shoes, socks, shorts, and watch! Real runners are kind of picky about this stuff. You see it goes back to their general paranoia about being classed with joggers.
Joggers have their own types of gear, and knowing this, real runners are careful to specify real brands and to steer clear of jogger brands.
The Watch
Real runners don’t wear Rolex, Gucci, Guess, or even Seiko. Casio or Timex is what you will find on the wrist of most real runners. The real runners watch is almost always black with a plastic band. They are ugly and runners love them. They always wear them while running of course. But most runners also wear them to the office, when out on the town, and other non-running – but required activities. They don’t wear an “Ironman Triathlon” watch for their morning run, and then put on a Citizen Diamond number for work. No. The running watch has both practical and idealistic use. At a movements notice, the real runner can recall from the watch’s memory, their last few runs. They need to do this to record it in their running log, to show it to someone else, or just to pass the time. The real runners watch is also a badge of courage, a label, an advertisement, an evangelistic invitation for someone to ask: “do you run?”
A point of caution is warranted here. There is another group of people who also wear black plastic, rather large watches all the time. These are techno-geeks. Engineers, programmers and systems designers could be mistaken for real runners – if you only glanced at their wrist. There are many obvious features that separate them from real runners. Just so you don’t slip and attempt to strike up a conversation on intervals with a C++ or Java programmer, here are a couple of clues: Techno-geek watches can calculate logarithmic functions, square roots, and often have wireless internet and GPS (global positioning systems) built in. Second, real runners don’t wear pocket protectors.
As mentioned above, real runners’ watches have lap memory (preferably at least 26), countdown timers (for speed work), and illumination (for night running). This allows the real runner to keep track of mile splits in a workout or race, run intervals, and times their boiled eggs when depleting (see depleting).
As mentioned earlier, even though he wore a runners watch, President Bill Clinton is not a real runner. He wore a Timex while president because they assemble watches in Arkansas – his home state. He’s definitely a jogger. Current U.S. president George W. Bush is a real runner. He ran a marathon – the Marine Corps – and in a pretty decent time, too.
Shoes
There are certain brands and models of running shoes favored if not required by real runners. Real runners don’t wear wimpy running shoes unless they are paid large sums of money to wear them (even real runners can be bought). What’s a wimpy running shoe? The brands come and go, but you likely won’t find a real runner in Sketchers, L.A. Gear or FUBU. Real runners usually prefer brands like Saucony, Asics, Addidas and even some Nikes. Real runners like names such as “Air Max”, “Pegasus”, “Mondo Elite”, and “Grid”.
Nike or Nothing
Another thing you should know. Many real runners are quite zealous when it comes to their running shoes. There are lots of real runners who swear that Saucony is the only running shoe. To them Nike is strictly for losers. Others wouldn’t be caught dead in a Saucony, and physically can’t run if they don’t have on Nike’s with full air and less than 500 miles. So, if you ask a real runner what kind of running shoes they recommend, you will usually run into pretty serious brand loyalty.
How Many Pairs of Shoes?
Real runners also usually have many pairs of running shoes in the closet. The mainstays of any real runners’ footwear are the Trainers. These are the everyday running shoe. They are not too heavy, but have good cushioning. The trainer is worn on most runs on the roads, to work, church, etc. Mentioned earlier, real runners will usually retire a pair of running shoes from active duty after about 500 miles. They are then lovingly demoted to a less important shoe category in the real runners’ rotation. Another must have shoe is the Racing Flat. Since many real runners run road races, they like a very lightweight shoe, with a smooth bottom – built for speed rather than cushioning or stability. Real runners wear these in races of course – but also in speed workouts. After several runs in your trainers, lacing on a pair of flats makes you feel light on your feet – and fast! A third real runners’ shoe might be a traction or trail shoe. This special shoe is designed for traction in the snow or ice, or for trail running in soft dirt. Since real runners love to get out in this stuff, most have a pair of shoes just for these unstable surfaces. In addition to these basic types, there are specialized shoes such as light weight trainers, ones for overpronators, underpronators, shoes for running at night (lots of reflectors), and so on. Finally some real runners have at least one pair of running shoes that they never run in. These are worn only in public – to the movies, to work, and so on. They are kept like new.
And you will usually find several old pairs of shoes in the real runners’ house somewhere. They just can’t seem to throw them away.
What to wear while running
The real runner runs in all kinds of weather. It isn’t a question of if they will run, but only what to wear. The guide below gives a rough idea of what type of clothing is required for various temperatures. Of course this is only a suggestion. Real runners come in all varieties of temperature tolerance. Some run shirtless in the snow, while others wear turtlenecks in the summer sun.
Temperature Range
Tops (m/f)
Bottoms


80-100F
none/jog bra
shorts
60-80F
T-shirt/tank top
shorts
40-60F
long sleeve T-shirt
shorts
30-40F
long & short sleeve T-shirt
tights
20-30F
sweat shirt, ear warmer
tights
10-20F
3 layers, hat, neck gator
double tights
0-10F
A good time for cross training at the spa
Humidity and the ideal training index
My work has taken me all around the world, and has allowed me to run in almost every imaginable climate. After going from the dry, cool climate of the Rocky Mountains to the sweltering humidity of Singapore, and noting how it affects running, I have developed the following Real Runners ideal training index.
This index needed to simple, a) because I developed it, and b) because I thought it up on a run (where else!) and it is hard to do complex calculations on a run (see Thinking While You Run, later on).
The ideal training range for this index is between about thirty and eighty. You can calculate your training index by taking the temperature in Fahrenheit and adding the percentage of humidity. Here are some examples:
Temperature
Humidity
Index
Rating
80
80
160
Poor
60
10
70
Perfect
30
50
80
Great
80
0
80
Also great
The real runner will always still run, no matter the temperature and humidity, but the ideal run is low humidity and mild temperature.
Real Runners and Old Running Clothes
Don’t be surprised if you find real runners wearing old, worn out running clothes or shoes. Real runners usually love these items, and wear them proudly. There are several reasons for this. The first is purely sentimental. A certain pair of tights, a T- shirt, or even a certain pair of shoes has been the close companion of the real runner on many memorable events. For example: Runs through storms, up mountains, over fences, in sickness and in health, and so on. The shirt or shoes become like one of the family. The real runner is loathe to toss the T-shirt, even though they probably have 35 other running T-shirts at home in the closet. To carry the marriage simile a bit further, the real runners’ attitude often is, “till death do us part”.
A second reason is superstition. Real runners sub-consciously believe that there must be some virtue transferred to a pair of running shorts after 500 miles or so. “These are the shorts I wore on the Timpanogos Mountain run, I ran well then, they will help me again”, is kind of how it goes.
Still another reason is because of what is “on” the article of running gear. A T- shirt from a favorite race, say the New York Marathon, might be worn for the next 10 years. It may be full of holes, faded, and stained, but it will be worn. Other marks are also important. For example a rip in the tights received while climbing over a fence on a midnight adventure run through a private park, or a stain where the real runner “lost their cookies” after a particularly great effort in a local 10K. These seeming reasons to toss a piece of gear are actually a reason for the real runner to hang on to it.
Race T-shirts.
Many real runners like to run road races. It is inevitable that most give out a T- shirt as part of the price of registration. It only takes about two years of this, and the real runner has a closet full of running T-shirts. What is the solution to this?
Real runners hate race T-shirts that are bright orange, green or any other color. They also don’t like shades of mauve, teal, or sky blue. Running T-shits are white, black or gray! The reason for this is that these T-shirts are often worn to work, to shop, to the symphony, and so on.
Top Ten things Real Runners do with all those T-shirts:
10. Make a quilt.
9. In the winter stuff your tights and shirt with them for insulation and better body definition
8. Tear them into strips and carry them for when you “gotta go”
7. Always wear an extra one and “throw it off” after warm- up
6. Conveniently leave them at the running club, starting line, finish line or on the trail.
5. Give them to your kids or your friends kids.
4. Donate them to the homeless shelter.
3. Stuff a long sleeve shirt and tights and make a seasonal running figure for your porch (Santa, St. Patrick, scarecrow, etc.)
2. Stuff one in each old running shoe (which brings up the point of what to do with all those old running shoes)
1. Put them in boxes in your basement
What They Eat
Real runners’ diets vary quite a bit. Here are some common real-runner types when it comes to eating: Tree Huggers.
Some real runners eat only vegetables, fruit, whole grain, and lean meats. These “granola runners” are a mutant right-wing fringe group of the larger class of real runners. They tend to have a pale, unhealthy pallor, and speak very quietly (some of them also run very, very fast and far). This group often misses winter runs because they are cross country skiing, and are sometimes arrested in peaceful demonstrations for whales, moths, or desert tortoises. They hug trees and are nice people.
Eat Everything
Many “mainstream” real runners run so they can eat anything they want. And they often do. These “garbage-disposal” runners typically have only about three things they live for (running and eating are two of them). Eat and run. Run and eat. Regular running burns tons of calories, and as long as they are consistent (and real runners are always consistent) they can maintain some state of fitness and health.
Binge and Purge
Some real runners prescribe to a strict diet of healthy stuff - most of the time. They eat carrot sticks, whole grain bread, rice, and pasta. They don’t touch ice cream, chocolate, or white sugar. And then one day, sometimes set off by a particularly good or bad run, the real runner will slip down to the local convenience store, and inhale ten pounds of cupcakes, chocolate syrup, and cinnamon rolls. The next morning they will be back to their strict regime, repeating the “cheating” behavior on a regular, stealthy basis.
I know a real runner who in the middle of a six week intensive training period, complete with a strict diet, secreted to the local supermarket and bought an entire wedding cake, which he and a friend devoured before dawn.
Favorite Food and Drink
Despite such a wide range of real runners eating styles some favorite food and drinks seem to emerge. The most obvious one is water. Real Runners love the stuff! Nothing beats a cool drink of water after a hard run. Water comes bottled in a hundred flavors, colors, and styles, but the very best is just plain, cool water.
I was in Taiwan once, and hooked up with the local Hash House Harriers group. I was amazed to see this hardy group, who had just taken me on a hilly 10 mile jungle run in the rain, to enjoy a post-run cigar and beer bash. It was later that I realized that though many Hash House Harriers are real runners, the group is a drinking club that likes to run, not a running club that likes to drink!
Many real runners also like soft drinks. It is very common to see caffeinated soft drinks on the bus to the marathon starting line
Most real runners love pancakes, waffles and donuts. These high carbo foods are a favorite, and are eaten at anytime, day or night.
Another favorite is all the healthy stuff like broccoli, carrots, apples, and grapefruit. As real runners training increases, their propensity for eating this healthy food rises.
The recent popularity of frozen fruit drinks (smoothies) is great for the real runner. Sweet, cold and good for you!
We cannot talk about favorite foods without a mention of chocolate. Real runners (especially those who run-to-eat) love chocolate. Forget those horrible tasting protein bars, and carbo-bars. Give me Snickers!
Carbo Depletion
It is an accepted fact that a rich carbohydrate diet is good for real runners. When we are full of carbohydrates we can run longer. There is this theory therefore that you can get more carbohydrates stuffed in if you first deplete them all out (this is akin to running your car completely out of gas before filling it). Hence a popular real runner tactic prior to a marathon is to carbo deplete, and follow this with a carbo load.
It goes like this. Let’s say the marathon is on Saturday. The Saturday before, the real runner has a workout in the morning - perhaps a 12 mile run. For the next three and one-half days a runner depleting will follow a strict diet: protein only - no carbohydrates.
This is pretty hard to do. The protein rich, and carbo starved diet might include stuff like: hard-boiled eggs, white chicken meat, sugar-free Jell-O, and plain yogurt. For a runner used to eating a lot of carbohydrates this can be a trial. Real runners who are depleting usually get very grumpy. They feel terrible. They are hungry all the time. A stack of pancakes or a plate of mashed potatoes sound like the greatest thing in the world during this three and one half days of self-induced carbo depletion hell. Of course the tapering workouts continue during this time.
On Tuesday, the weak, scared, angry, grumpy and thoroughly depleted real runner goes out for an afternoon workout - and attempts some speed work; short on quantity, but heavy on the quality. This might be a two mile warm up and a one mile interval at 5K pace. The theory is that now you are totally depleted. And now it is time to load!
Real runners gather and have a pasta bash on Tuesday night to kick off the carbo load, and the final countdown to the marathon. The final Wednesday through Friday nights include a diet rich in carbohydrates.
As the theory goes, this culminates in a fully charged up carbo storage system, and a PR in the marathon.
Does it work? Many real runners swear by it. The gamble is that you change your diet radically so close to the big day. What if it makes you sick? What if you emotionally collapse because you feel so weak so close to race day?
Joggers don’t carbo deplete; however most carbo load consistently.
A Word about Water and Water Bottles
Real runners often carry water bottles on a long run. However, it is sometimes the case that real runners will leave the water bottle home, just for the challenge of “finding water” on a run. They enjoy dropping in a 5 star restaurant, coffee shop, or gas station for a drink. And it is very typical for a real runner to risk disease and three weeks of diarrhea to drink out of a spring or stream. Of course real runners also consider sprinklers, and faucets, and garden hoses to be there especially for their personal hydrating use.
Joggers of course also hydrate on their workouts. They tend to like Red Bull, Rock Star, Starbucks, and San Pellegrino.
Run to Eat, versus Eat to Run
When it comes right down to it, there are two kinds of eating behavior with real runners. As mentioned earlier, many “Run to Eat”. One of the reasons they love to run six miles a day is because they believe this then allows them to eat as much of anything as they want. In most cases this works! The danger with the Run to Eat crowd is that if for some reason you stop running for a few weeks (hard to imagine, but occasionally it happens), the metabolism reacts with ten quick pounds in the middle.
Some “Eat to Run”. These healthy people carefully structure their diet, not just before a marathon, but all the time, all in the name of better runs or races. I don’t personally hang around such people, but many (fast, healthy) real runners follow this path. Weird.
Nutrition
Though many real runners could care less about good nutrition, most at one time or another seriously considers it. This is usually associated with one of two motivations. Either they are trying to prepare for a big event (like running a 3 hour marathon to qualify for Boston) and want every possible advantage, or else they are trying to counter some other traumatic change (slowing down with age, recovering from an injury, the sudden appearance of love handles).
When in such preparation modes, real runners can get real focused. This is usually for a relatively short period of time. For example swearing off sugar, or carbonated drinks, alcohol, fat, or even chocolate might be part of the runners “focus” on nutrition during a preparatory time.
Perhaps one of the most important points in this book is this: As real runners start to get fit and train a little more seriously, the body naturally craves good things. The body demands quality fuel. This can by mystifying to the real runner, who would normally grab a donut but goes for an apple instead.
Where They Run
Fences, walls, no trespassing signs, rivers, mountains, or toxic waste spills never stop real runners. Most normal people will only occasionally see real runners out running. That is generally due to where (and when) they run. Real runners avoid main roads, jogging paths and other places frequented by bicycles and joggers. They prefer quiet side streets, canyons, and deer trails (and often run early in the morning when it is dark – see when they run). Here are a few examples of where runners and joggers go to get their miles in.
Real Runners ______________ Joggers
Mountain Trails ___________ Jogging Paths
Dirt Roads ________________ Indoor Jogging Paths
Roads ____________________ Malls
Outdoor Tracks ___________ Health Clubs
Across Canyons ___________ (Grand) Living Rooms
Running Indoors
Real runners hate treadmills. It goes without saying that this feeling also goes for stair steppers, stationary bikes, cross-country skiing machines, rowing machines, elliptical, and other pseudo running devices. Sometime they use these devices, but only to warm up before a real run outside, or in the case of a treadmill, when injured, or at the fastest possible pace and the steepest incline possible; and this usually to impress someone else who might be where the treadmill is (say a cute health club attendant).
You might think real runners would like treadmills because they can run on them when the weather is too nasty outside to run, but remember bad weather never stops a real runner from running. Other reasons they hate treadmills are: because they are indoors, because they are a machine, but mostly because joggers use them all the time. Most real runners agree that running three miles on a treadmill is like running twelve miles…on a treadmill. Yuk.
The Indoor Track
Indoor tracks are useful to real runners. Speed workouts can be done effectively on indoor tracks, but only if they are 8 laps per mile or less. Health club tracks at 38 laps per mile are never used by real runners. Though a real runner would never admit this, indoor tracks are also a good place to show off your speed or endurance - say popping off a 5 minute mile or a couple of fast quarters.
In places with very cold winters, runners often spend several sessions a week at the indoor track. As the winter rolls on, real runners can develop various forms of indoor track insanity.
The most prevalent is akin to claustrophobia, and is referred to here as “the stink.” To runners who are used to running outside, it doesn’t take too many sessions for the indoor track to take on an unpleasant odor. This stink comes from more than just the smell of sweaty bodies and stale rubberized asphalt. It comes from the real runners’ mind considering 50 laps versus a brisk six miles outside in the fresh air. It drives most real runners outside or crazy.
Other indoor track problems can include shoes (and legs) that are worn out on one side (most tracks only allow running in one direction), as well as injuries from slow moving wide vehicles - joggers usually. Most joggers walk around tracks, and almost always in the inside lane so you have to go around them. Real runners yell “track!” When coming up on joggers in the inside lane.
Training in the Swimming Pool
Unless they are quite injured and quite desperate, real runners would never run in place in a swimming pool with a flotation vest. That isn’t running. Don’t even consider it. If you are too injured to run, which is highly unlikely (see Injuries), for heaven’s sake don’t waste your time in a pool. Joggers would likely be doing water aerobics at the same time as your water workout anyway, and you would fit right in. See what I mean? The only exception to this would be if Running Times asked you to be featured in an article on cross training, then of course you would.
Swimming pools are for lounging in after a marathon – especially if they have a hot tub. I know there will be letters scoffs and scorns on this point. I’ve read all the studies and stories and seen the floations vests, and heard all the wonderful benefits of training in the pool. Is it running if you are floating in a pool? Sure it might be training, but it ain’t running!
Cars, the Road, and Real Runners
Because real runners are often out running on the roads, they have to deal with cars. Often this is avoided because real runners are running at 5:30 am and there aren’t any cars on the road. In these cases the real runner runs down the middle of the road – which is as it should be.
Unfortunately real runners sometimes have to run when there are cars on the road. This section contains some tips and important information about running on the road.
Road Surfaces
If you ever have the choice of running on the concrete sidewalk, or the asphalt pavement of the street, the real runner will always choose the street. It may not be a literal fact, but to real runners the pavement is a much, much softer surface than the concrete.
Drivers don’t understand this fact and so tend to get annoyed when real runners prefer the road to the sidewalk. It’s not that the real runner sets out to annoy the driver. This is just an enjoyable bi-product of the process. The road is softer than the sidewalk. By the way, joggers seldom jog or walk on the road.
In the same way the real runner prefers the pavement to concrete, if there is a way to run on the dirt path on the side of the road, it is much better than pavement.
You might think this would apply also to grass along the sidewalk, but it’s not the case. You see there are a few reasons the real runner might not like the grass. One might be that the grass surface is uneven. The grass itself might have holes and bumps that could cause the real runner to trip or fall. Another is that the grass, if a bit long, is kind of like running in the sand. It kind of drags, and takes more effort. If it is a long run, and energy conservation is the order of the day, then the real runner wants the most efficient surface available, and so may sacrifice cushioning for less drag. Also the change between sidewalks, driveways, and grass requires lots of attention, and the real runner prefers to be in cruise control then. There might be a good conversation going on, a majestic view to consider, or merely a nap being taken. In any case, the real runner will likely be out on the pavement rather than on the grass.
Let me conclude this section by cautioning everyone to be careful when running on the road. Drivers are crazy! Watch out for them and do not trust them to do what they are supposed to do. Also watch out for bikes. I know two real runners who were severely injured running on the side of the road in the early morning. One was hit by a guy on a bike going 30 miles-per-hour with no light, and the other by a truck mirror. The best policy is to give cars and anyone else on the road wide berth.
Camber
Most paved roads are fairly flat in the middle, and then slope down on the sides, with the steeper grade closer to the side. Since real runners prefer the roads, and since most drivers also prefer the road, during traffic times, real runners are relegated to the edge of the road. This often means that the real runner is running on a slanted surface. This curve, or camber, has little effect over short stretches, or only infrequent runs.
But the serious real runner – one who is running 30-50 miles per week or more, and much of that on the roads, needs to be careful not to spend hours on this surface where the left foot lands ½ inch lower than the right. This can cause all kinds of problems. It is another reason real runners prefer the middle of the road. It’s flat.
And it’s another reason to run early in the morning, when the drivers are still in bed and the roads belong to the real runners.
Of course when I’m saying real runners run in the middle of the road, I’m not talking about any road where traffic is. Real runners might be crazy, but we’re not stupid – and please don’t you be stupid. Don’t run in the road if there are any cars around!
Cars and Drivers
The key to dealing with cars, and more specifically with the driver, is eye contact. For the most part, real runners don’t trust drivers, and so rely on eye contact to determine where and when to “go for it”. As the real runner nears a corner or intersection, and is faced with a crossing or oncoming car, they have to decide if it is safe to go. The key is to look the driver in the eye. If the driver has the “I want to cream you” look, the real runner usually waits. If they have the “oh look honey, it’s another jogger” look, then the real runner will always go. If they have sunglasses on, or its dark outside, then the real runner will usually wait and take the conservative, life- enhancing position.
The basic rule here is don’t trust drivers. Catch your breath for the extra few seconds it takes to clear the intersection or crossing. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!
Real runners HATE IT when drivers honk their horn at them from BEHIND. This is really a dumb thing to do, and of course every real runner knows that you only honk your horn at runners AFTER you have passed them. Those thoughtless drivers who lay on the horn behind real runners usually deliver a severe scare. This can result in several things happening – all bad. The real runner can jump (if they are the nervous type) perhaps out into traffic or trip and fall into a fellow runner. They also will likely have a sudden adrenalin rush as their life passes before their eyes and they wonder if the honk is preliminary to them being whacked by a bumper (well maybe the adrenalin rush isn’t all bad).
People also like to whistle and holler at real runners. This is sometimes in recognition, but often just out of non-runners fascination, envy, distain, or empathy with those who would be out on the roads running.
With or Against Traffic
As real runners make their way here and there, they often must choose which side of the road to run on. Most real runners will run facing traffic. Running facing traffic allows the real runner to see what’s coming and have a few moments to time any required leaps to the side to avoid an oncoming car. Remember the eye contact mentioned above.
Running with the traffic takes more of the “ignorance is bliss” approach. You don’t know what’s coming up behind you, and so you don’t move over until the dreaded honk from behind or until you hear the approaching car and jump off the pavement onto the sidewalk. I suggest always running against the traffic.
And remember, Real Runners never, ever wear head phones or listen to music while running! That is crazy.
When they run
Real Runners run whenever they feel the need -which is often! They do not let anything stand in the way. Let’s take the weather. A little rain, lightning, snow, wind, or cold never stops a real runner. A small hurricane, blizzard, flood, riot, war, or nuclear accident is a reason for an “adventure run”, not a reason to stay home.
How about darkness? Never. Because running is an adventure, the chance of fractured ankles, crazed drivers, and the like is all part of the experience. A job? No problem. If a run is “needed” during work, off they go. The boss will understand. And cold? Real runners often cant use their lips or fingers for several hours after a long winter run, but hey, they got their miles in! Granted that some runners do need to actually do something other than run from time to time. But they don’t have to like it.
When “distractions” (such as a job, school, etc.) Come up during the day, real runners must run either very early, very late, or both. It is not an option to skip a run that day; it is only a question of when. The trails and streets are a happening place between 5:00 and 6:00 am as the real runners get in their morning run.
If for some truly extraordinary reason real runners can’t get in their regular runs for more than a day or so, look out. Real runners get very irritable if they don’t or can’t run. For example the last couple of days before a marathon are not a happy place around a real runner’s house. These special people are used to 40-100 miles per week and all of a sudden – no runs! They have probably not only been resting, but also carbo depleting. Better give wide berth to the real runner during these times (see Carbo Depletion).
At the Road Race
There are usually hundreds or even thousands of people at a road race. Among this throng are a few real runners, and many joggers and spectators. Here are tips on how to pick out the real runners.
Real runners typically won’t wear extremely loud or outrageous clothing. A few do, but you can tell who they are by the race number – it is always in the single digits (such as #1).
Prior to the race real runners will be found stretching, loosening up (not jogging), and talking to other real runners. At this same time joggers will be admiring the race T- shirt, tuning their Walkman, or refolding the space blanket and checking the Gatorade and Power Bars in their fanny pack.
Real runners hang out together – usually with the fast runners. You do not have to be fast to be a real runner, and if you are fast you are not necessarily a real runner, but fast runners always respect real runners regardless of speed. Also, you will notice that when joggers attempt to mingle with real runners that the real runners invariably scatter. Almost always polite, they use excuses like, “I have to go to the port-a-potty”, or “excuse me, time to go warm up”, leaving the jogger to adjust their head-mounted water bottle. The exception of course to this rule is if the jogger is a remarkable physical specimen of the opposite sex. Then real runners will stay around until the gun goes off (they are real runners – not real idiots).
Another way to discover if someone is a real runner is to ask them. Real runners will always tell you if they are. In fact they will talk your ear off (about running) if you let them.
Most real runners at a road race are running in the race. Real runners don’t like to watch road races in person. In fact they hate to. It pains them. There is no logical reason why a real runner would be at a road race and not be running. “If I’m not going to run, why go?” is how they think. It is also the case that if a real runner happens to be at a race, and happens to have on a pair of running shoes, it will occur to them: “Hey I could jump in and run this!” And then they do. It is better to run a 10K in street clothes than to watch.
Though they don’t like to watch road races in person, they love to watch them on television, and will stay up until the wee hour (which is usually the only time they are ever on)
Bodily Functions While Running
Spitting
Spitting is necessary and acceptable while running. Here are a few common spitting techniques you will need during group runs. The “Change Lanes and Go Wide” method is to veer off away from the group and let it fly away from other runners.
Then there is the “Drop back and Aim back”. For this just slow down, turn your head around and expectorate in the direction you just came. Don’t keep your head turned that way too long, you might run into something.
Perhaps the most efficient (and dangerous) method is the “straight ahead and aim down” spit. If the wind is right and your timing is true, you can put it right where you want to. The danger of course is that legs, shoes or fellow runners could be the recipient of your unwanted expectoration.
When you need to spit at the indoor track, slow down and find an open trash can or other suitable place. Don’t spit on the track.
Blowing your nose
Also common is the related “Cleaning out the Nose” maneuver. Often real runners get stuffed noses which really need to be cleaned out – thus allowing maximum oxygen input through the nostrils (few real runners are mouth breathers). To execute the Clean Nose maneuver, move wide to the side you will clean. Plug the opposite nostril. Tuck your arm, elbow in tight to your side. Aim for the open space off to your side, and give’er a good crisp blow. Repeat for the other side. It’s common to occasionally get a little on you, but real runners don’t mind. That is what gloves in the winter and a T-shirt in the summer are for.
Passing Gas
All real runners pass gas while running. Most agree that real running contributes to gas. Gas while running is okay. Real runners don’t mind. There are several reasons for this: 1) because they do it themselves. 2) Because the noxious odors are left behind (except in rare cases of very strong tail winds). 3) It is a conversation item. Appropriate responses when either you or a running companion passes a little are: “turbo-charged”, or “Taco Bell”, or “Step on a duck?” It is also appropriate to make no comment. Rarely if ever will a real runner say, “excuse me” on this occasion.
Toilet paper
Real runners usually carry a small amount of toilet paper tucked into their waistband. The reason is obvious. Some times you gotta go. Real runners can and do find a place to go when the need arises. Remember they are usually on a dirt road, or running in the dark, or on a trail. In other words, if necessary they can find a place. Think of the good work done by real runners in watering and fertilizing the flora of the world.
If you see a runner finishing a long run and they turn up with only one sock, or one glove, or the sleeve gone off one side, you’ll know they forgot their toilet paper and had to improvise.
Of courses the real runner will always look for a restroom, construction-site outhouse, or other appropriate place before getting more creative.
Trees, bushes and poisonous plants
Real runners love nature. They know every possible burr, weed, sticker, thorn, and leaf that will stick to their socks, tights, or legs. Running through the wilds, cutting corners, going on toilet diversions, cross-country treks, cause real runners to discover all these and more.
Poisonous plants are also known by the real runner. This painful knowledge comes from general running through the wild, but also from rare experiments with an unknown leaf as a substitute for toilet paper.
Thinking while you run
Running is one of the great stress relievers. To the real runner a pleasant run along a trail, or even on the road in the early hours of morning, can be a time for relaxation, creativity and inspiration. If you ask a real runner, they will tell you they do some of their best creative, right-brained thinking while on runs alone. If you need to improve a relationship, visualize a strategy, plan a party or organize a theme for a speech or presentation, there is no better place to think about it than on an easy run by yourself.
There is also a type of thinking that is not enhanced, but suppressed while the real runner is running. That is left-brained mental calculations. I’m not sure the reason why, but a real runner who while stationary can easily add, subtract multiply and divide simple numbers, completely loses this ability while on a run.
This phenomenon is demonstrated to the real runner, or group of runners, who are going along in the middle of a marathon or long run, and they try and calculate their finish time based on their current pace. These are pretty simple calculations mind you, but stump most runners while running.
Let’s say you are running at 7:30 pace and have five miles to go. How much running time remains? The stationary real runner might calculate that five miles times seven minutes is thirty-five minutes, plus five miles times one-half minute is two and One-half minutes, for a total of thirty seven and one-half minutes. Seems easy, but for some reason the brain struggles to do this while running.
When Not Running
This is a very short section. This is mostly because when real runners are not running, they are usually not happy. Frankly we don’t want to dwell on it any longer than necessary.
When real runners aren’t running, they are usually thinking about running (planning the next run or reviewing the last one). It is impossible for a real runner to write a letter, give a presentation, or have a conversation with anyone without talking about some aspect of running. Non-running family members of real runners quickly learn to adapt to this behavior. Just kidding.
Real Running is contagious
It is a fact that real running is contagious. Like so many of the destructive vices of the world, abstainers first abhor it, then they tolerate it, then they embrace it. It is a beautiful thing in the case of running, and it happens all the time.
First, a lost soul becomes a real runner. Those close to them shake their heads in disgust. Later, they accept the fact and attend a road race as a spectator, or watch their foolish real runner head off in the morning. After a while they think maybe they will try an easy mile or two themselves - just to see how it feels. One year later, wham! They are entering 5Ks and rescheduling their day to fit in their all-important runs.
This process of catching the real running disease is not widespread. But those close to a real runner cannot help but notice the obvious positive benefits that come to one so blessed.
Real runners and other sports – Cross Training
Running is not a sport to real runners. It is more like a religion, a philosophy, or an addiction. Therefore it is often the case that real runners do other sports. Most though, don’t have much time for sports, because all free time, and much time that isn’t free, is spent running or talking about running. Nevertheless if they do other sports, you will find that there are a couple of sport real runners don’t do.
For example, real runners don’t roller-blade – especially never in a road race. Of course a real runner would never, ever be caught dead race walking. Race walkers are one of the only athletic life forms lower on the food chain than joggers.
The mind
Some would argue that real runners have lost theirs, and in many instances a strong case could be made that they have. This however is an inaccurate view. Real running is much more than moving one foot in front of the other for extended periods of time. It is as much a spiritual or mental thing as a physical one.
Real runners like to push themselves, are dedicated to goals and consistency, endure under challenging conditions without stopping, and have a constant need to stretch their abilities and limits. It is this “mental” strength that makes the real runner real.
It is always amazing how tough a 6-mile tempo run at intended marathon pace can seem. After a workout like this, often alone on cold morning, the real runner says to themselves, “there is no way I can do this pace for 26 miles!” But on marathon day, that mostly-mental combination of toughness, adrenaline, excitement, anticipation, respect, and awe come together and result in a performance that is a wonder.
This short rhyme could have been written by a real runner: If you think you are beaten you are if you think you dare not you don’t If you like to win, but think you can’t it’s almost a cinch you won’t
If you think you’ll lose your lost for out in the world you find Success begins with a person’s will it’s all in the state of mind.
Anonymous?
(A jogger’s version)
If you think you need a donut you do If you think you are soft you are If you like to jog but think you won’t You can always ride in the car If you think you’ll lose some weight Because your velour jogging suit doesn’t fit anymore Success begins and ends with how you look.
The Marathon
Perhaps the favorite race of the real runner is the marathon. A marathon, as every real runner knows, is 26 miles 385 yards. Though there are real runners who don’t do marathons, and joggers who sometimes do, this special race remains the domain of real runners.
Real runners often get irritated by the mistaken belief of most non-runners that “marathon” refers to a particular race and not a distance. For example you might say, “I ran the New York marathon last month, and mile 20-26 was very hard”. In the next breath you might talk about your plan to run Boston the following year, and the non- runner will invariably ask, “Oh, how far is that one?” The jogger will also frequently say, “Well I ran the Turkey Trot marathon”, referring to a 10K.
There are also “half” marathons, which obviously are 13.1 miles – exactly half the distance of the full marathon.
How we got the Marathon
For real runners there are a few really monumental moments in history. Included are the invention of pancakes, the discovery of mountains, the invention of “air” soles, and the marathon. We got the marathon like this.
Pheidippides and the Marathon
This real runner, who happened to be the Olympic champion from Athens, was asked by his government to run (literally) the 120 miles over to the Spartans and ask their assistance with a little matter of an impending attack by Darius and the evil Medes. Pheidippides, who was in shape at the time, ran for two days and two nights, including some serious swimming and mountain climbing, only to have the superstitious Spartans say they couldn’t come until the full moon. So Pheidippides put some Greek grease on a few chafed areas and ran all the way back to Athens to deliver the bad news. That little 240 mile run alone would qualify him, but it gets better.
Pheidippides grabs his spear, changes his socks, and heads with the army down to the coast where the Mede army has landed. An historic battle takes place, where the out manned and outnumbered Athenians rally to beat the Medes. With the battle won, the Greeks call on their real runner to take the news back to the anxious people at Athens. Flinging down his sword, putting on his racing flats, and with nary a water stop on the way, Pheidippidies runs the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens. There, sinking into the arms of his friends, he gasped, “rejoice we conquer”. His running buddies recorded this final entry in his running log.
Much later, to satisfy the viewing and seating needs of the Queen of England, the finish line was moved at the Olympic marathon in London. This stretched the distance to today’s 26.2 miles.
Training for your first marathon
Many real runners decide to run a marathon. If you are one of those, here is a sample preparation schedule. It is listed here only as a sample. If you are serious about running the big race, you should find some local real runners and ask them to assist you in customizing a first time training program that is right for you. They will love it, and you will benefit from their experience and understanding of the marathon.
This schedule comes from the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, who put on an awesome marathon around July 24th each year.
PROGRAM
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Average
Week 1
25 min.
50 min.
25 min.
50 min.
25 min.
1:10
optional
35 min.
Week 2
30 min.
55 min.
30 min.
55 min.
30 min.
1:20
optional
40 min.
Week 3
35 min.
1:00
35 min.
1:00
35 min.
1:30
optional
45 min.
Week 4
35 min.
1:10
35 min.
1:10
35 min.
1:45
optional
50 min.
Week 5
40 min.
1:20
40 min.
1:20
40 min.
1:45
optional
55 min.
Week 6
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:00
optional
1:00
Week 7
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:00
optional
1:00
Week 8
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:00
optional
1:00
Week 9
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:00
optional
1:00
Week 10
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:00
optional
1:00
Week 11
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:30
optional
1:05
Week 12
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
1:30
40 min.
2:00
optional
1:00




















Instructions


Choose the marathon you want to run, and then begin the program three months earlier.
The schedule presumes that you’re starting from a base of about a half-hour of running a day. If you’re significantly below that, don’t begin this program until you’ve reached that basic level.
If you’re running more than 35 minutes a day, start later and at the appropriate place in the schedule. There is, of course, no reason to back down.
Typically, the weeks will run from Monday (Day 1) through Sunday, (Day 7), with the longest run on Saturday. But weeks can start and end anywhere you want.
One day a week – labeled “optional” – is left open for rest or as a makeup day if you’ve come up short for the week.
The entire schedule has alternating long and short days to allow cycles of work and recovery. They’re planned on about a 1-2-3 ratio: a short run is one part, a medium-long run two parts, and the longest three parts.
The program calls for a five-week buildup, leveling off at an average of an hour a day for seven weeks and then a one-week easing off before the marathon.
In the next-to-last (11th) week of full training, you’re asked to go at least a half-hour longer than ever before. This is a confidence builder.
You are trying to accumulate an average of an hour a day for an eight-week period (all averages are figured on seven-day weeks.) This theoretically gives you the ability to run for four hours or to race for three hours.
Three months include 13 weeks, but only 12 are given here. We hope you aren’t superstitious, because the 13th is race week. “Taper” all week with runs averaging about half of normal – 30 minutes a day.
Do all you’re training at about the pace you expect to maintain for the full marathon at the end of the program.
You may run a race of 5-10 miles in the second month instead of one of the long runs. But this is not a requirement.
Tangents
In the marathon, and in shorter road races, the real runner is often faced with winding roads that are usually closed to cars during the race. In this blessed situation, runners are free to run wherever they choose on the road. You will find them spread all over the place.
Serious real runners, who want the best possible time in the marathon or road race, know all about tangents.
A tangent is a straight line between two points. If the real runner is winding their way along and they come around a bend in the road, and can see a further bend a half mile ahead, they will mentally draw a straight line, or tangent to the inside point of the next turn. They commit this tangent to their internal guidance system and run it.
Doing this religiously over an entire marathon will usually cut many, many strides off the race – resulting in as much as a minute or two better times.
After the marathon
No matter the pain or injury, one of the most satisfying places in the world for the real runner is the finish area after the marathon. The water and fruit are great, but the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction are fantastic. The company is pretty good too. There the real runner mingles with others who have conquered the 26.2 miles.
Most marathons offer free massage after the race. If you are running your first marathon, do not pass up this massage, no matter the wait.
The Marathon is Like Life
The marathon is like a miniature life, compressed into three or four hours. There are literally hundreds of analogies to be made, about how running a marathon is “like” life. Since this is supposed to be a little book, just a few are listed here. But every real runner who has run a marathon or two can and will add their own insights and wisdom gained in the marathon.
The whole is (much) greater than the sum of the runners
Almost every task we are faced with in life is made easier by companions, friends, and fellow participants who are encouraging and experiencing the same thing. This is true in life and in the marathon. With the exception of a very few of the most competitive elite runners, participants in a marathon make it so much easier by their encouragement and by just being there. You are almost literally “carried along” by the group in the marathon. How can you fail?
How can you stop, with so many others pushing along with you? It is a power that is hard to describe but so very real.
A consistent pace is best – a reverse split is even better
Life is full of fast starts and faded finishes. This is doubly true in the marathon. The race is long and you must anticipate the last miles and your level of fitness and endurance. At the 100th Boston Marathon I was a victim of this. Due to a number of factors, I found myself in less than ideal shape for the big day. I felt honestly that I could manage a 3:30 and enjoy this once in a lifetime event. Unfortunately I talked myself into starting with a group of friends, who were shooting for 3 hours. I started at 3 hour pace, and during the second half of the race, when the famous hills started, my fast start cost me. I ended up walking up some hills and feeling very uncomfortable for the last eight miles. I ended at 3:26, which was the time I wanted all along – but I nearly didn’t finish and get the coveted 100th Boston finishers medal – all because I started too fast.
In a marathon, and in life, a reverse split is even better than a consistent pace. A reverse split is when you run the second half faster than the first. Of course some courses (and situations in life) are conducive to that and others aren’t. But the principle is true. Start slow, get your bearings and learn how the environment and you are feeling that day. Then as the race progresses and the end approaches, gradually pick up the pace. When the going gets rough, you are within yourself and have saved enough to finish strongly.
Don’t walk
Many real runners make a goal to not walk once from start to finish. This does wonders for you time, your attitude and your likelihood of finishing. In the second half of a marathon stopping can kill you. Your whole body is tired. Your muscles are crying out for a rest. But you are in a groove. If you succumb at a water stop or an incline and walk for a minute bad things happen can happen.
One bad thing is when your mind says, “That feels good, let’s extend this or do it again soon!” And you probably will – and soon. You have been training your mind and body for weeks and months to go 26.2 miles, and you are cheating all of that training by stopping. Another problem with stopping is you will find it very difficult to regain the pace you had prior to stopping. You just can’t quite get back there. Third, it really adds to your time. If you are running 8:15 pace miles and at mile 18 you stop and walk through the water stop, you will probably find your next mile is 9:30 – even if start back up at 8:15 pace. It doesn’t take many of those to add 10 minutes to your marathon. In life the exact same thing happens. We all have jobs to do. Some are long – like being a father or mother. Some are shorter - like mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. It is better to keep going and finish. Don’t stop. If you take a break, chances are you will mess up what you intended to accomplish.
I understand that in a marathon, and in life, sometimes it is best to stop for a time. Of course we should be wise.
There are a few REALLY important things in the marathon a zillion little things can ruin your big day. But every marathoner knows (or should know) a few really important things that you better do right, or your chances for success are small.
The most obvious is your shoes. You must have a good pair of shoes – proven in few long runs prior to the marathon. New shoes or the wrong shoes can do you in. Running shoes are kind of like our attitude. In running a marathon and in life, a positive attitude is essential to happiness and success. Don’t try to make up on the downhill what you lose on the uphill. In life and in marathons there are hills. When you reach a long, difficult uphill stretch, it slows your pace. If you are like most runners, you check your watch and see that you are now “behind” your goal.
Thankfully, many “up” hills are followed at some point by “down” hills. It is easy to be tempted, on the down hill, to try and make up for the time lost on the slow, difficult, up hill. In most cases, wisdom would say, forget it. Keep your steady pace. The downhill will naturally pick you up a bit. But long experience says that you will not be able to make up the time lost in the uphill, by running faster on the downhill. This is often true in life. When we are blessed with a downhill stretch in life, we are best served by keeping our head and perspective on the rest of the race, and not to see how “fast” we can get down the hill.
To finish is to win
In the marathon there are hundreds or thousands of runners. Most who run the marathon never consider crossing the finish line first. Except for an elite few, finishing first is not even what the marathon is about. Eighty percent of all marathoners run the marathon because of what completing it means.
Completing a marathon, and completing it well – whether that is in two and one half hours or five hours, is what satisfies, thrills, and fulfills. Very few things feel better than crossing the finish line, knowing that you have accomplished the difficult thing you have prepared so long to do.
In life this is also true. Great good and great satisfaction comes from finishing the important and often difficult things in front of us.
The race is a celebration of the training that got you there.
Someone once said that runners should consider the marathon to be a celebration of all the training and preparation that has gone into the big day. Runners sometimes are so focused on running the perfect race that they fail to enjoy the day. Marathon day is important, but perhaps the most benefit to body and spirit come in the long preparation before the race. This special day should be enjoyed.
If the race does not go as planned; if muscles cramp or blisters form, and times are slow, runners should still celebrate the accomplishment of the marathon.
In life we often fall into this same error. We should consider the graduation, the speech, the completed report, the served dinner, to be a celebration of wise preparation before.
All Shapes and Sizes
Real runners come in every flavor. Men and women, boys and girls, tall and short, young and old, fat and thin; anyone can be a real runner. Like God, motherhood and apple pie, running is for everyone. And so in every nation, land and continent, the wheat is separated from the chaff and real runners emerge.
In almost any gaggle of real runners you will find younger and older, thin and heavier, fast and slow. Because real running is more like a contagious disease or evangelical religion than an elite athletic group, it is open to anyone with the will and lack of sense to join.
And don’t assume that if you are in a road race – or especially in a marathon, that just because someone is small or large or old or young, that they can’t necessarily run fast and far.
Real Runners and Medicine
Doctors
Real runners tend to be into non-traditional forms of medicine and healing. There are two basic reasons for this. The first is that real runners tend to be earth friendly, natural, outdoor, herbal, tree hugging, recycling types. They frequent health food stores, have a chiropractor, and know where to go for a therapeutic massage. One thing real runners don’t like though are regular doctors.
The reason they don’t is that whenever they visit one – no matter the reason, the doctor always tells them to stop running. The diagnosis and prescription is usually, “take four weeks off running and I’m sure it will heal up”. They usually throw in a token anti-biotic or maybe a muscle relaxer - but always prescribe abstinence from running. The obvious solution to this is for the real runner to NOT TELL the doctor that you are a real runner. That is easier said than done. You see each visit starts with the nurse coming in and taking your blood pressure and pulse. The nurse ALWAYS comments what good shape you are in and real runners can NEVER resists blurting out, “Oh that’s because I run 120 miles a week”. The nurse touches a hidden button with her foot and a small red light goes on outside the door. This lets the doctor know that a real runner is inside and that the “no running” prescription is appropriate.
You can see the obvious problem here. The real runner believes that running is the solution to all problems, the cure to all ills. The doctor is preaching just the opposite!
Injuries
Because real runners love to run so much, when they get injured it is always a traumatic time. Hamstrings pull, Achilles strain, arches ache, and shins splint. These types of injuries almost always cause the real runner to miss mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, work, PTA meetings, or washing the car. However they rarely prevent the real runner from RUNNING. Even though their mind, their common sense (only a few real runners have this when it comes to running), and their doctor (see doctors) tell them to lay off for a while, they usually end up out on the road. This is largely because the endorphin addiction/craving overcomes all other emotions or rationale. The real runner must be running.
To compensate for this irrational and self-destructive behavior, real runners use excuses such as, “Oh I won’t do any speed work”, or “this is actually helping me heal by increasing my circulation”.
The results of this run-when-injured behavior actually provides the real runner with several benefits. These include: 1) They learn to run with pain (which many of them like). 2) They always have an excuse for poor performance in a race or workout (I’m injured). 3) They can sometimes evoke sympathy from loved ones (the first few times anyway).
Absurd (but effective) Real runner Myths about Injuries. Nothing heals an injury like a good hard run
Many real runners swear by this. If your Achilles tendon is sore, and conventional wisdom says ice, stretch, no speed, and no hills; then the psychopathic real runner will go out for a three mile tempo run in the hills and tell everyone it helped heal his Achilles.
Rest is bad
In this time proven real runner principle, it only makes sense that if you are on a roll – say you haven’t missed a 30 mile week in a year, that it would be very bad to take a week off – for any reason! So following through with this, if a knee is acting up, or an ankle gets sprained, rather than resting it for the suggested time, the real runner will justify continued regular workouts with self delusions such as: “If I stop running I will tighten up and take weeks to get back”. Or: “Resting my ankle will let scar tissue form and I will lose my fluid stride”. They may sound dumb to you, but it happens every day.
If two is good, six is three times as good
This applies not only to mile repeats but also to medication. A real runner I know was prescribed muscle relaxers to help stop bad cramps in the calves on long runs. Thinking that if two is proper dosage for a 12 mile run, then six would be just right for an important marathon. Unfortunately in this case the over-dose rendered the real runner mostly a mass of uncontrollable muscle and bone by the 2nd water stop. Apply this same principle to Ibuprofen, Aspercreme, and turtle extract and you get the idea.
If there is a hot tub available, use it conventional wisdom says that the worst thing right after a marathon or other taxing long run, is a hot tub. The effervescent heat (almost always available at the hotel after the marathon) “sets” the soreness into the muscles and joints. Rather than speeding recovery and resumption of running, it actually delays it. An ice bath is really much better than heat. This important principle is largely ignored by real runners.
Real runners and Performance Enhancing Substances
Real runners don’t do drugs, would never use steroids, shoot up, sniff, or smoke to better their running ability. However, they will go to great lengths, do weird things, and eat or drink positively ridiculous things to help their running.
Real runners are constantly in search of the latest menu, theory, snack, liquid, herb, vitamin, or combination of stuff, which will “naturally” help them to be more of a real runner. Gatorade was an early form of product that fits in this area. There have been a steady stream of these kinds of products ever since.
It is here that the real runner approaches the cable-TV shopping channel, supermarket tabloid gullibility level. On a clear-thinking day, most real runners would classify the latest “miracle” diet pill, energy shake, or subliminal smart-sleep in the same category as professional wrestling. But, when it comes to finding a way to knock 20 seconds off a 5K time, the real runner can become positively naive.
Consider the following (allegedly) performance enhancing stuff that could be found in the real runner’s bag:
Analgesic cream – Of course it relieves pain, swelling, and decreases age, but did you know that it makes up for lack of training? Be there or be left behind.
Bananas – the banana is the perfect runner’s food. One eaten prior to the start of a marathon guarantees a great day!
GU, Power Gel, etc. – This stuff works. It is like an ice pack, hot tub, endorphin rush, six hours of sleep, pound of broccoli and a tail wind all rolled into one. Powerbar, Energy bar, etc. – These things taste terrible so they must work, right? GU tastes like frosting, how come these bars taste like they are made of sand? Hersey’s Kisses – Remember, pure chocolate equals pure performance.
Tylenol – Don’t leave the marathon starting line without it. I especially enjoy dropping them on the road while trying to take them at the 13 mile water stop.
Advil – It doesn’t help while you’re running but everyone takes it.
Diet Coke – Can twenty million runners be wrong? You find almost as many empty Diet Coke cans as banana peels on the bus to the marathon starting line.
Passing Comments
Real runners are usually very polite, nice people while running. Non-runners would be amazed at all the “hellos”, “excuse me’s” and “how ya doings” thrown around during runs and races. The casual observer would conclude that runners put manner and politeness above all during races. This may appear to be the case, but real runners know different. Real runners are usually very competitive. They may have nice words for their fellow runner coming out of their mouths, and actually feel that way inside, but deep down every real runner loves to test themselves against their fellow runners.
An illustration of this is as follows. Cheryl and Kathy are running through mile 20 of a marathon together. Suddenly Cheryl picks up the pace and pulls ahead, leaving Kathy behind. As Cheryl pulls away, Kathy says, “looking great, go for it!”, and Cheryl replies “you’re looking smooth too, lets do it!” What they are thinking is this. Cheryl says to herself, “Kathy looks terrible, I’m going to bury her butt right here!” As she pulls away Kathy thinks to herself, “Oh no! Here she comes. She may be passing me now but I hope she cramps up and drops out by mile 24!”
Even on an easy run this often happens. It is the end of pleasant 5 milers at an easy pace. Larry has commented a couple of times that he doesn’t feel very good today; he thinks he got a virus on the cruise last week to Mexico. Shanna, offers an encouraging comment, and suddenly picks up the pace - striding ahead of Larry into the last quarter mile. She feels the power as she surges ahead! It happens all the time, believe me.
The Real Runners Essential Vocabulary
As you start hanging around real runners you will notice that, like most sports, they have their own set of terms, acronyms, and buzz-words. Once you know these, you can converse freely with the experts. So, here is a selected list of definitions to some commonly used real runners terms.
Base - To avoid injury and successfully train, runners must first have a “base” of mileage. For example to train for a marathon, runners should first build a base of several weeks of at least 30 minutes a day of running. If you try running a marathon without a base you won’t get to first base.
Gu - Any brand of performance enhancing, energy giving gel or substance. Usually comes in a little packet like mustard – but usually tastes like frosting. Real runners take GU at various intervals during long runs and races.
Fartlek – Those of you who have run with a large group of runners just assumed what this meant, but you were wrong. This term describes a workout which consists of alternative periods of faster and slower running. This can also be referred to as intervals, but runners prefer to call it fartlek around non-runners.
“Hawk” Miles - Hawk miles are named after a famous real runner in Utah, Kenneth “Hawk” Harper. If Hawk says he has been on an 8 mile run, you can assume those are “Hawk” miles. These are approximately equal to 6 traditional miles. You can calculate “Hawk” miles yourself. Just take the fastest downhill mile you have ever run in your life, and divide that by how long you ran. So for example a 40 minute run in the hills of unknown distance, would be recorded, and reported to friends, assuming your fastest ever mile was 5 minutes, as an 8 mile run. If you know even a few real runners then you know one who uses “Hawk” miles, or your local equivalent. To use the term in your vocabulary, merely substitute the word “Hawk” with the first name of your favorite real runner.
Pick-ups – What single runners attempt to do at races and on weekends? Just kidding. Pick-ups are a workout similar to fartlek. You run at an even pace and then at certain intervals gradually build your speed up to near maximum, and then drop back to the starting pace.
K – K stands for kilometer. As you know most track and road races are measured in kilometers (5K, 10K, etc.). We still measure our pace (see pace) and our training runs in miles (see miles), and always have a hard time correlating kilometers and miles. A kilometer is .621 miles, and a mile is 1.609 kilometers. So a 5K is 3.1 miles, a 10K is 6.2 and so on. Confused? Me too.
Pace - Runners always refer to their actual, intended or dream pace. Pace is the average time per mile that they are running. A seven minute pace is seven minutes per mile. To run a 10K (now you know that is 6.2 miles) in 42 minutes you need to run slightly faster than a seven minute pace. A less frequently used definition of pace is to run with another runner and be their “pace setter”. In marathons and long distance road races, the top runners sometimes have someone “pace” them through the early stages of the race. In track meets this pacer is called a rabbit.
Your pace is always at least 30 seconds faster per-mile when you record it in your training log, than when you ran it.
Tempo – A training run at a faster pace – usually a little slower than race pace but faster than an easy run.
Miles - To most people (including most race directors) a mile is 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards. To some real runners (come on admit it) a training run “mile” is about 4,800 to 5,000 feet. These short miles help training run times and mileage looks good -building the confidence of the real runner. (This is similar to fisherman’s rulers) (See also Hawk Miles)
LSD - Some running proponents recommend Long Slow Distance runs as a key element of training. These are typically runs of 15-30 miles at an easy, slow pace. LSD is believed to produce endorphin highs which at times can be slightly hallucinogenic. You can “see yourself” finishing the marathon, it’s great!
L.A. - L.A. stands for lactic acid, the nasty stuff that makes your legs burn when running up steep hills. Real runners like the feel of lactic acid build up in quads and calfs. Having many L.A. days and nights will make you a real runner.
Carbo Loading – A popular excuse for runners to pig out on everything in site. Carbo loading is a theory that prior to a long distance race “loading” your system with carbohydrates will enhance your performance (see depleting). Carbo depleting also causes very grumpy real runners.
Depleting - Some real runners “deplete” their system of carbohydrates a few days before a marathon. They do this by eating only protein (stuff like boiled eggs, and sugar-free Jell-O). Of course they keep running during this depletion. This allegedly helps really clean out the old carbo pipes, so that when they carbo “load” they can stuff more carbos in than if they hadn’t depleted. Get it?
The 10% Rule - This rule says that after an injury, runners should increase their mileage a maximum of 10% per week, until they get back to their desired level. For example, if an injury causes you to take some time off, and you were averaging 30 miles per week, you need to start at say 15 miles per week, and then increase it by 10% to 16-17 the second week, and so on until you have “gradually” built it back up. Real runners never obey the 10% rule.
Flats - Racing flats or “flats” are running shoes designed especially for racing. They are very light. They make you feel like when you were a little kid and got a new pair of sneakers. Flats are also where real runners in Europe live.
Tapering – As the real runner nears a marathon or other big road race, they will ease or “taper” off their rigorous workouts. If a real runner has been putting in 40 mile weeks in preparation for a big 10K, they might taper down to 25 two weeks before and 15 the week before. This tapering off allows the body to rest and recover and be ready for the big day.
Bandit – A bandit is someone who runs a road race or marathon who has not officially entered. They are bandits because they take advantage of the ride to the starting line, the drinks and goodies at the end, and the other amenities of the race without paying the entry fee. Real runners in need of a good tempo run have been known to run a race as a bandit. By the way, real runners who run as a bandit in a race never go through the finish chute. They always veer off before the finish area. Otherwise they might mess up the finish order and placing for other runners in the race results.
The Real Runners Running Log
Almost all real runners keep a running log. It inspires them, helps them plan, lets them log longer distances and faster times than they actually ran, and otherwise provides yet another component of the complex life of the real runner. Below is a sample week from a real runner’s log. If the times seem a little fast, this example just happens to be a faster real runner.


Date
Description
Time
Dist.
Total
Mon
6am 5 miles easy
40:10
5
5
Mon
5pm warm up + 3 mile tempo (6:00 pace)
35:15
6
12
Tues
6am Long easy on river trail
120
10
22
Tues
6pm With running club – hill workout
45:55
6
28
Wed
Noon Intervals on track – 6 X 800m (2:40)
55
8
36
Thur
6am Easy run on roads
45:45
6
42
Fri
6am Hill run – charge uphills
52:05
6
48
Sat
7am Canyon run with running club
2:15
17
65
Sun
Rest – watch video of NYC Marathon








Joggers Log
Of course joggers don’t keep running logs. The reason is obvious. They don’t run and who cares? But if they did, a typical week might look like the one below.


Date
Description




Time
Dist
Total
Mon
9am 1/2 mile easy at the mall.
1 dozen donuts as
40:10
1/2
½


A cool down.








Tues
Noon Desk to parking lot (fire drill so had to do 3
5
0.1
0.6


Flights of stairs!)l








Wed
6pm Brisk walk around the block with the poodle
25
0.5
1.1
Thur
10am Desk to vending machines and back.
15
0.1
1.2


Snickers, Payday, Milk Duds








Fri
6am ½ mile jog at the mall.
Ultra slimfast. 10
20
1
2.2


minutes on rowing machine








Sat
7am Wore new jogging suit to the mall for some
30
0
2.2


Shopping.








Sun
Carbo load
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