A little less than three years ago I started running “by accident.” A membership to a runner’s group was included in something I purchased. I didn’t want to use it so I tried to resell it – and no one else wanted it either. Being the cheap bastard I am, I decided to join the runner’s group. Ten half marathons and thirteen full marathons later, I’m still running. It’s not because I love it, exactly, and it’s certainly not because I’m good at it (whatever that means). It’s mainly because everyone needs something to “do” and right now, this is what I do.
At 36 I’m a little south still of middle-age (mainly because I plan to live to 100 although I reserve the right to push that date around a bit). I feel I’m somewhat representative of a certain group of women: a little south of middle-aged, professional, enjoys physical activity, some discretionary income. Consequently, there is a ton of advice that is sent to me and my running sisters: what to wear, what to expect, how to act, how to look. That’s all great but I’m here to tell you not a lot of that matters. If you’re going to run, here’s the God’s honest truth about what you need to know.
Put Away the Cute Shoes.Go to a real athletic shoe store and buy real athletic shoes that have been fitted to you by a real professional. I know, I know…I want the day-glo florescent orange trainers with teal stripes and pink laces, too. But hobbling isn’t sexy (unless you’re 85, and then any movement is sexy).
Bring Tunes…for Yourself.
At yesterday's run I was unfortunate enough to run the same pace as a couple of women who were buddies and listening to music together…on speaker…and singing. Don’t ever be that person. Put buds in. If you want to share the tunes with a friend, get Bluetooth or a splitter. If you’re not allowed to have headphones, sneak them in or abide by the rules. But, please, don’t ruin it for the rest of us. And don’t sing…particularly not to LMFAO.
To Tutu or Not to Tutu.
At my first large run a few years ago I saw a small group of gents running in green tutus for St. Paddy’s day. It was cute-ish. But I live in Portland, OR. Show me an event that doesn’t have men (or women) running in some kind of weird costume. So, it’s cute and I’m over it. But if it works for you, great. I’m not a tutu or costume hater and neither should you be. But if you’re going to gear up, be prepared to wear it, warts and all, for the entire distance.
Lube Up. A Lot.There’s a product called Body Glide and it should be your best friend. Yes, it sounds like it’s the name of a porno but you shouldn’t care. In fact, Body Glide could be made specifically for high viscosity humping on pornos and you still shouldn’t care. Body Glide will save your soft spots from feeling like they’ve been sucked by a thousand voracious mosquitoes with Swizzle straws.
Dear Cute Girl at Mile 23: I probably hate you.
There you are at mile 23. You see a cute, fresh-faced girl wearing a fleece-lined hoodie sitting on a collapsible chair playing CandyGrams or StinkyBird or VampireBats on her phone. Next to her is a triple shot mocha caramel nut frappucino with extra whip. She can leave whenever she wants (okay, so can you but that’s beside the point!), she’s warm, she has calories next to her, and she’s not running. She looks up from her phone, smiles and says “good job” and you feel like a well-behaved dancing monkey. It’s okay. You can hate her. I do, too. (But she should never take it personally. We probably feel the same way about that skinny cheerleader back at mile 21.)
Dear Volunteer at Any Mile after 15: I love you and want to marry you and have your babies.
Here’s what a missed connection ad would look like: “Me, running by wearing sweaty, salty spandex pants and a tech shirt with a pained look on my face. You were passing out painkillers, tea, and gummy bears as I ran by. Yes, I know you’re too old/too young/wrong gender/already in a relationship but I love you.” You’ll love these people, too, and hopefully they bring enough Advil for the both of us.
Bring on the Over-the-Shoulder-Boulder-Holders.In general male runners don’t have boobs. In general a lot of female runners don’t have boobs either. However, a lot of us do. And I’m one of them. I have boobs and, commensurate to their size, they bounce around a lot. Yeah, it’d be great to have a bra that’s pink or sparkly or sexy or strappy but those don’t work for me and they won’t work for you either, my big-breasted sisters. Forget sexy. Get functional. And be happy if functional comes in some color other than black.
It Is Good Quality Time.
If you’re a social person (I’m not), you’ll enjoy running because it’s your time to chat with your buddies. If you’re not a social person, it’s time to pace yourself in companionable silence with another. Neither are to be underestimated.
You Will Not Lose Weight.I have not lost weight running. I doubt I will ever lose weight running. I don’t know anyone who has lost weight running, unless they were previously pretty inactive. So run because it’s good for your body, good for your mental state. Don’t run only to feed your calorie counting behavior.
Other Kinds of Fitness Are Valid.Once you start running that doesn’t entitle you to look down at other types of fitness. All exercise burns calories, all exercise serves some purpose. So if you see some women speed walking in their Sketchers while pushing strollers or contorting themselves into pretzels while worshiping the butterfly goddess Mumu, you still recognize them as fellow exercise enthusiasts and honor them as such.
You Will (Probably) Not Look Good.Because I know there is such a thing as Gaussian functions, statistical probability, and bell curves, I know there are some women who look like fresh-faced, slightly moistened gazelles at the end of a long-distance race. I don’t look that good at the beginning of a race and I sure as heck won’t at the end. Chances are, neither will you.
Yes, You Might Be Angry.I’d say this is a “me” problem but I know more than a couple who are just the same: sometimes at the end of a long-distance race, you’re just angry. You’re tired, you made mistakes in pacing or you didn’t train hard enough, or the race director put in some hills you weren’t expecting, or some lizard crossed your path and you twisted your ankle to avoid squishing him. It doesn’t matter. You’re just cranky. Own it, try to not take it out on others, and move on. Chances are, everyone else around you is celebrating the accomplishment and trying to make you feel great and there you are acting like you just pooped* your pants. Be happy, even if you aren’t, if only so you don’t look like a horse’s ass later.
(*Note: In some instances you may have, in fact, pooped your pants, in which case these statements don’t apply. Avoid human contact and get yourself to the closest facility.)
You’ll Probably Like It Enough to Do It Again.I hated my first 15K. And my first half marathon. And my first marathon. Oh, and I’ve also hated every subsequent one. It’s a lot of work and instead of feeling my love handles jiggle I could be underneath a down-filled blanket on a pillow-top bed sleeping in, followed by having a nice breakfast while reading a book and drinking a foamy coffee. But, a few miles in, I realize the easiest way to get to that bed, food, and coffee is to go forward and finish the event. And once I’ve finished the event, I’ve realized that I’m never going to be younger than I am this moment and someday my body won’t be able to do this.
And I go register for another one.