Runner vs. runner

Caution: This is a post where I complain about things, and it may only be funny to about 1/100 people. And, since the stats suggest fewer than 100 people visit this site per year, there is virtually no way for this to be funny. I just need to get it out there.

I'm a focal point for several groups of people at work who spend all or some of their exercise time running. I don't run with all of them, but I talk to them, and they ask me questions. Strangely, with only two good years of experience, I seem to be considered one of the more experienced runners around here. Really, I'm just one of the most consistent runners around here.

If you're into computer programming, you might have heard the term "coder." For folks coming from artistic backgrounds, IT professionals, and web developers, "coder" is a good thing. It means you posses a proficiency with at least one programming language, and do it well enough to make some money at it, or make yourself more valuable to your employer because of it. Engineers don't get along with coders. To an engineer, a coder can be a dangerous thing. It's like someone claiming the same pedigree of discipline and knowledge of a software engineer because they read a few O'Reilly books, and followed some online tutorials.

Don't misunderstand me: I believe every adult in the first world should know how to write a very simple set of programming statements in some kind of programming language. I'm not exaggerating when I say I feel it is a critical part of understanding how the modern world works (and how it does not work). It's like learning history in school even though you want to be an auto mechanic. Knowledge of history won't make you a better mechanic, but it gives a better perspective on life, and makes you a more useful human. Understanding how software works is the same thing for the information age.

That being said, a spreadsheet jockeyMBA can rarely tell the difference between a well-spoken coder and a seasoned software engineer (until they start discussing salary). Coders cause a lot of unintended frustration for software engineers, and we don't like being compared to them.

Herein, I discuss a similar internal distinction between groups where external observers consider us all the same: Runners vs. runners.

Lately, I have been encountering a lot more Runners. These are people who make sure that coworkers and casual acquaintances are well aware of one of their modes of personal exercise.

"I'm a Runner, so..." "I injured my foot, which is unfortunate because I'm a Runner..." "The rainy weather is extra depressing for me because I'm a Runner."

Here is where I introduce a few of you to the other type of person: the runner. A runner doesn't wear it like a piece of clothing or a badge. They can't; it's a part of their being. It's inside them. It doesn't require recognition or public awareness. It just is.

Admittedly, when I returned to regular running after a six-year break, I probably told a few folks that I was a Runner. Thankfully, I feel I've passed that point in my running career.

Before I go any further, I need to make a distinction between a Runner and other people who run for exercise. Consider this third group joggers. These are people who use running as a part of their normal exercise, and maybe even enter regular running events. But, they don't consider it such an important thing in their life as to identify with it. It's just something they do when they find the time. I'm actually totally cool with joggers. They never bother me, and I wish more people would get off the couch, and shimmy, shamble, waddle, and otherwise quickly move from one foot to the next as much as possible; regardless of pace or distance. Go joggers! You may walk half the time, but you're not trying to convince the world that you're doing anything out of the ordinary.

Here are some helpful ways you can tell the difference between a Runner and runner.

[r] A runner just runs; whenever, wherever. The time and location of such running is irrelevant to the act itself.

[R] A Runner has a schedule when running is possible, and when it is not. A Runner typically has a "route" or distance they need to cover to consider it a "good" run.

[r] When there's some spare time, a runner will always consider the possibility of going for a quick run (even if it isn't feasible at that time). Running is, itself, entertainment, and an enjoyable way to spend an hour.

[R] A Runner needs lots of rest between runs, and spare time in the day is consumed by other forms of--typically passive--entertainment.

[r] A runner will only pay the necessary attention to the current weather that is required to help them decide what clothes to pick for the day's running.

[R] A Runner will scrutinize the current weather, and set "go-no-go" thresholds for whether or not they'll be running that day. A RUNNER, will often cancel a SCHEDULED run because of rain or slightly cold-ish temperatures.

[r] When a runner is under the weather (a cold, cough, digestive discomfort, etc), they'll consider a run a good way to help speed up recovery (even if it won't help, or make things worse).

[R] A Runner stops running if they have a headache, or clogged sinuses, or a sore throat, etc.

[r] A runner takes care of the machine that is their body with regular stretches, moderate cross/strength training, and a reasonable diet. There is no compartmentalization between running and the rest of their lifestyle. Again, it's just a part of being.

[R] A Runner spends a considerable amount of time stretching before and after any run over 20 minutes. Any other forms of exercise are considered separate activities, and helpful, but not that important. Running is compartmentalized, and a "bolt-on" component of their lifestyle.

[r] A partially torn Achilles tendon, open/bleeding blisters, screaming IT bands, and considerable edema and swelling just means today's run will probably be a little slower than most.

[R] A tight hamstring, or a tender knee shuts down all scheduled running.

[r] A runner eats reasonable amounts of good, healthy food because that's what the body craves.

[R] A Runner justifies ice cream with "I Ran today."

[r] A runner doesn't let their exercise interfere with their responsibilities at home and work.

[R] A Runner takes the afternoon off if they've had an especially long/hard run that day. A nap is often involved.

[r] A runner enjoys running with a partner, a group of people, or alone. It's pretty much all the same thing, and they'd be running anyway, so why not?

[R] Some Runners prefer partners/groups because social pressure is an effective motivator keep Running.

[r] A runner gets a lot of introspection, work, and organization done while running. A runner finds simple enjoyment in the sights and sounds of the outdoors (urban or otherwise).

[R] While running, most Runners need entertainment and distractions in the form of music, books-on-tape, and interacting with their mobile telephones.

[r] Runners require comfortable clothing that isn't the same clothing they'll be wearing around other people later.

[R] Runners require the most advanced, lightweight, moisture-wicking, anti-chafing, high-visibility clothing available. Their shoes must be the latest technology with either no cushion (the self-proclaimed minimalists), or extra cushion for their bad knees/ankles/feed/arches. They need appropriate headgear. They always carry hydration accessories (belts, packs, etc). They carry food on any run over three miles. They carry high-tech energy nutrition (power bars, "Gu", etc) on any run over ten miles. Sunglasses are almost always required.

[r] A runner knows they've injured themselves before, and they stop running in a way that causes those injuries.

[R] A Runner considers their past injuries something they can't help or fix. They would rather wear (often cumbersome) braces, splints, bands, or straps than addressing the source of their injuries. In far too many instances, those past injuries severely restrict the amount and quality of running for that person.

[r] There are 24 hours in a day when running can happen.

[R] Running must happen when the sun is up.

Running is something we're all evolved to do. It's built into our genes. It's a natural capability of all humans. You wouldn't be reading this if your ancestors couldn't outrun a natural predator or competing human. Running shouldn't be considered special. It should be considered normal. I really want to be in a situation where a person smugly declares their non-conformity by stating that they don't run. Unfortunately, our civilization is currently in a phase when walking for non-transportation purposes is considered pretty odd.

Maybe someday, we'll be like these folks:

More than likely, though, we'll all be like these folks:

To those of you who are Runners: Shut up and run. Get rid of the iPod, leave your Gu at home, and just run because running is fun. Don't run because you're earning some credit towards a longer or healthier life. Don't run because you want to eat Oreo cookies with lunch. Just run.

To those of you who are runners: Sorry I had to bring this up. It was just annoying me lately. I'll shut up now.