The more I become immersed in the world of running, the more often events occur which make me think, “yup, you know you’re a runner when that happens!” I was mulling this over during my long run this morning, so for this week’s blog I thought I would collate and comment on some of those experiences which I’m sure will be familiar to many:
You know you’re a runner when…
1. The most expensive shoes you own are your running shoes. This weekend I was shown a newspaper headline which stated that the average woman has 39 pairs of shoes and was asked if this was me. My initial, tongue in cheek, response of, “how dare you call me average!” was swiftly followed up with the more serious, “does that include running shoes?” You see, nothing beats a new pair of running shoes. They’re shiny and new with lots of miles ahead of them and make you feel like you’re running on air. When I bought a new pair earlier in the summer I was struck by the fact that I happily shelled out £70+ for trainers with barely a second thought, but would think very carefully before spending that sort of money on any other shoes. I may only get a few months of wear out of my running shoes before they need to be replaced, but those shoes will be with me as I pound out mile after mile in rain, sun and even snow; they’ll be with me as I prepare my body for the challenges ahead; and they’ll be with me when I triumphantly cross the finish line. We’ll spend a lot of time together, and that makes them priceless.
2. You spend more money on running clothes than work clothes. Despite the fact that my husband thinks I’m always buying new clothes, I realised recently that this is not entirely true. Ok, so I enjoy shopping as much as the next girl, but during a summer holiday shopping trip to get some new clothes for the new term (teachers need their new school uniform too, you know!) I started wondering when I had last been on a non-running shopping trip. The answer? Probably the Christmas holidays! The revelry of the New Year was barely over when my marathon training began in earnest and for the first few months of the year any clothes I bought tended to be for running. The rigours of marathon training tend to require plenty of running kit as something clean is needed every couple of days and I like to have a choice of kit to wear. Apart from anything else, just because I’m going to get all red-faced and sweaty doesn’t mean I can’t put together a matching outfit – a girl has to have standards!
3. You have more race souvenirs than you know what to do with. Most large races provide some sort of souvenir to finishers. The most obvious are medals or t-shirts, but race souvenirs can really be anything. In our flat we have mugs, drinking glasses (sometimes accompanied by alcohol miniatures), paperweights, sweatbands, hats and neckwarmers to name but a few. These are nice enough souvenirs and in some cases very useful, but for me a medal and/or t-shirt will always be the best race souvenir. Let’s face it, there’s something very satisfying about crossing a finish line and having someone place a medal around your neck. A medal says, “I achieved something”. A medal can be worn with pride for the rest of the day (before being stashed in a drawer or hung from a bedpost!) A medal let’s you pretend, just for a moment, that you’re one of the “elite”! I’ve been known to sign up to the odd race simply because I’ve heard there’s a finishers’ medal and I’m sure others will have done the same! And what about t-shirts? These come in two types: the traditional cotton t-shirt and the technical t-shirt. Runners tend to have shelves bulging with cotton t-shirts emblazoned with race and sponsor logos. They wear them as a top layer before and after other races as a kind of “badge of honour” and it can be interesting to see what races other people have taken part in – particularly if they’re from races years ago (I like to think of these as “retro” race t-shirts) or races abroad. Technical t-shirts, of course, simply help to expand your running wardrobe and mean you can take that “badge of honour” with you on future training runs. The only downside to this can occur if lots of people you run with all turn up for a run in the same race t-shirt. Not quite as disastrous as someone else having the same outfit as you at a party, but quite an amusing sight for any passers-by who are sure to wonder why a gaggle of lycra-clad runners just shot by with matching red faces, matching runners’ tans and matching running tops!
4. Your vocabulary changes. Most of us know plenty of people who couldn’t run the length of themselves and are astounded when we tell them the distance we ran at the weekend as this is often longer than their commute to work! To a runner, however, the perception of distance changes, particularly during what for many has become their annual “marathon training season”. I first noticed this when I became aware of my frequent inclusion of the word “only” in front of distances e.g. “It’s only 10 miles”. 10 miles is still a long way, but when you are following a training plan that calls for 20-22 miles, a mere 10 is comparatively short. In fact, once you become used to these double-digit training runs, a run of up to 6 miles (or 10K) becomes “just” a “short” run. This vocabulary change also results in an aversion to some words, the most obvious being the word “jogging”. Non-runners have no idea of the disgust they cause when they ask how our “jogging” is going. In principle there’s nothing wrong with jogging: it involves people getting some exercise and trying to keep fit. But to a runner, it conjures up images of smug retired people in matching velour tracksuits panting round the block at a pace barely above a walk. I remember the horror with which my friend Andrea reacted when a colleague asked her when her “jogging thing” was (Andrea and I were training for the London Marathon at the time – a major RUNNING event covered by the BBC) and however well-meant the enquiry was, I’m not sure Andrea will ever forget it!
5. You even dream about running. If you’re immersed in a full-on training programme then running really does become your life. I distinctly remember posting the following status update on Facebook during marathon training: work run eat sleep work run gym sleep work run eat sleep. When you’re not actually running you’re either talking about running or planning your next route (I assume this to be the reason why a couple of my friends recently bought me a copy of Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running for my birthday!). Food becomes “fuel” if it’s before a run and once the insane hunger of marathon training takes hold, you just can’t get enough food in you to satisfy the pangs. Gym sessions are designed to improve your running. The only time you are really “switched off” from running is when you’re asleep, yet even this has been known to elude me. I often enjoy a bit of a “power nap” after a long training run and a few times during marathon training I woke up to find Steve asking me what I had been dreaming about as my legs had been moving so much. The answer, of course, was running! This generally happens after a run of 18-20 miles and my theory is that by this point your legs have been running for so long (in the region of 3 hours) that they even continue while you’re asleep! I have also been known to experience dreams about forthcoming races. Before the London Marathon this year I read a lot of tweets suggesting that people were having nightmares about the race: missing trains, getting lost,etc – sort of the marathon equivalent of dreaming about being in an exam hall naked! I, on the other hand, had a lovely dream in which I was running the London Marathon and enjoying it. Nothing else, just me running the race. At first I couldn’t understand why I was having such an innocuous dream, but on reflection I know that it was indicative of how “relaxed” I was feeling about the race. Yes, I was unbelievably excited – it was London, after all – but at the same time it was not my first marathon and I had trained more than for my previous one so I knew I could complete the distance. That dream actually helped my pre-race preparation and my relaxed approach to the race meant that I knocked 25 minutes off my marathon PB!
It’s clear, then, that I really have caught the “running bug” and if you’re a runner or have a runner in your life then you’ve probably seen something in this post that you recognise. There’s plenty more I could have added to this and might even return to this theme in the future. In the meantime, however, feel free to post your own “you know you’re a runner when…” suggestions below. Until next time, happy running!