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September 23, 2013

I Do Run Run Run, I Do Run Run

The fact that I run is a source of mild embarrassment to me. It’s not the kind of thing I go around telling people because there’s something a little showoffy about distance running, even if you are as unaccomplished and slow as me. Runners don’t normally go around telling people how far they ran that day because that would be gauche, but a runner knows to the tenth, or even hundredth, of a mile exactly the distance he traveled, and how long it took him to do so. He knows the fastest time he has ever run that same distance. He carries those records like totems. Because its accomplishments are most often achieved in solitude, a runner’s pride can sometimes get the best of him. Pass a runner in your car on a cold early morning and I pretty much guarantee that runner is thinking I am better than you. It’s a terrible thought to have, even though it is correct.

Runners routinely endure suffering for no reason other than to have done so. What other reason is there to run five or fifteen or twenty-six point two miles at a time? Fitness can be achieved at shorter distances. Weight loss can be accomplished with less pain. So why else do it? Why else commit oneself to long slogs through rain and sun? Running is an act of vanity, one that measures itself not by flatterers but by footsteps. After tens of thousands of those footsteps, and miles and miles endured, is it not natural to believe oneself to be at least a little bit better than those who chose to convey themselves through space in more comfortable environs? No runner would ever express that thought out loud, of course. Except for me, because I am kind of an asshole.

Running is a private activity done publicly, usually on roads and trails. A runner puts herself into the world, half-dressed, hair a mess, face red, sweat-soaked and unattractive. She does this in full view of all passersby, showing herself in a more vulnerable state than she would ever do in her workplace or among her friends. In that running space, within the confines of her run, she is free from having to look a certain way or dress a certain way except as it pertains to running, from having to talk at all, from having to engage with anyone she does not wish to engage with, from having to be anything other than a small machine transporting the body from point A to point B. It is simple and beautiful for being simple.

People sometimes equate running with spirituality or meditation. To be out there, alone, in private reverie, can invite the same sorts of wonder and self-discovery as religious contemplation. Suffering, too, is intimately tied to both endeavors. Religion loves its penitents to suffer. Oh boy, does religion love suffering; it is through suffering that we find forgiveness and grace. Never through ice cream. But runners aren’t seeking forgiveness, and the only grace they are searching for is economy of motion. Some runners, like myself, look for clarity in their running, moments of escape from self, as the repetition unbinds mind from thought and allows the body to take control for a little while. But those moments are fleeting and never produce anything like enlightenment. Usually, they just produce a bum knee or an upset stomach. Spirituality is spirituality and running is running. Yes, running can evoke spiritual feelings. But so can watching leaves fall from trees. So can anything.

I run because I run. Which isn’t the reason I started running. I started running because I thought maybe I would find enlightenment. I thought great suffering would produce great knowledge. No. It doesn’t. Or maybe I just haven’t suffered enough. After all, I am still a novice runner. As I write this, I have yet to run my first half marathon, which is coming up in a couple weeks. Yesterday I ran the furthest I have ever run, eleven and a half miles (11.55 to be exact in a time of 1:52:38) fighting a keen desire to poo the entire way. When I got done, I went straight to the toilet. As I sat there, I started to pass out and had to remove myself to the floor, my shorts around my ankles, where I muttered a feeble “help” to an empty house. I broke out in a fresh, cold sweat and after several minutes of lying on the floor, I righted myself, and finished my business on the toilet. It was a bad end to an otherwise good run.

In the shower later, I noticed my bloody nipples and chafed arm. Nipples chafe and bleed from rubbing against shirt fabric. The arm, I think, grew irritated from rubbing against my sleeve hole. Today the redness is crosshatched like a waffle fry and it hurts when I touch it. My nipples are already scabbed over and pain free. But my calves are sore and my stomach still feels a little dicey. Tomorrow I will run again because I run. And also because I am better than you. 


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The little round band-aids, the ones the size of, well, a nipple, are the perfect thing for preventing bloody nipples -- much better than the specialty products advertised toward runners. I wear them for anything over 4 miles, and can make it through a marathon without any nip issues.

(Yes, I mentioned that I've run a marathon just to point out that I'm better than you.)


as someone who runs 3.25 miles 3 times a week, i would like to admit that you are better than me but also that my nipples never get chafed. ouch!


Flashes of Elvis, please don't die on the toilet.

Runner too.

Two words. Body Glide


Unfortunately running and gastric distress go hand in hand (I call them "Runner's Trots"), but I'm glad you didn't let that stop you. Body Glide will be your new best friend - just smear that on yourself from head to toe and you'll be good to go (rhymes). Congrats on signing up for your first half marathon - I'm very proud of you! The first one is always the toughest, but will definitely give you the biggest sense of accomplishment. I completed my fourth half marathon on Sunday (*bragging*) so my unsolicited advice is to make a great running playlist, keep a steady pace, stay hydrated, eat something mid-run and stretch before and after (the downward dog yoga pose is a lifesaver). Best of luck to you and I look forward to hearing how your race goes!!


Thanks for this post. You perfectly spelled out the self-imposed suffering that us runners put ourselves through.

And Congrats on training for your first half-marathon! I have ran several marathons (because I'm better than you) and I find that a piece of toast w/peanut butter or some oatmeal make great pre-run meals that help alleviate stomach issues.


oh wow-congrats on the 11 miles. That in itself is an accomplishment. So is not dying on the toilet. Keep it up and buy some nipple guards.


Your reaction after the 11 miles reminds me of my reaction when I decided to just run for no reason but to run, I imagined I would end up a hundred miles away from home, running all night. I turned around after 8 miles, after I got in the house I was in shock and I projectile vomited up the coconut juice that I thought would cure me. Sips of salted water turned me around instead. Then I committed to doing it again and again, but running more than 10 miles a day is a big time suck, I stopped after my babies were born, haven't gotten back into it.


One time I was in the car with my pa. We was driving down this road in the middle of nowhere and I saw a snake at the side of the road. Well, me being obsessed with snakes, especially rattlers which I never did see in the wild, yelled, "PA! PULL OVER! THERE WAS A SNAKE! IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A RATTLER! I GOTTA SEE! PULL OVER! YOU PULL THE FUCK OVER NOW!" But he didn't, because I swore. But then he did, because I was getting out of the car whether he stopped or not, and he didn't want to pay for any hospital bills or funeral costs.

So there I was, sprinting down the side of the road as fast as I could, to see if I could catch a glimpse of that snake. Now I'm fast. Really fucking fast. Like, people are always saying, "Damn! You fast!" That's how fast I am. But I can only usually keep that up for like, 100m. And my pa didn't stop the car until we were like, probably a million or more metres from where I saw that snake. But I wanted to see that snake so bad, so I ran like I never did run before.

I never did see that snake. But I did meet a nice police officer who pulled over wondering what the hell was going on. That's when I threw up. And that's when I knew, running wasn't for me. So I guess we're just two different people, isn't we?

Did anyone read this? Well, I guess you must be on crack too.


Hi - that's one of the best descriptions of why we run I've read for a good long time.

Last week I heard of a young lady who had to withdraw from the Yorkshire marathon as she had lost control of her bowels at 20 miles. She had passed a toilet every mile up to that point.

You are on a massive journey my friend - 5 years ago I had a very similar experience on my first marathon (London). Now I don't give a sh!t about my time - I would rather stop and get the 2nd best feeling known to man, then have a comfortable run.

There is no glory to be had "holding it in" - as you describe so well running will torture us in a variety of other ways, no need to let this get you too. Carry some tissues and find a loo. 5 years later I find my body just knows to get ready for run.

You seem to have a great attitude - I am sure that you will have a great running career - Good Luck!

Oh - and thanks @snakeguy - had me laughing!

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I run and will continue running. It is not about staying fit, it is about running, and simple plain running. I completely agree that it gives strength, not only generates outside aura but creates a whole lot different engine running up in the head.

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