Runners v. Non-Runners

I haven’t been the most motivated marathoner so far this training cycle. The snooze button has been awfully enticing and sometimes the chilly temperatures make me want to hibernate on the couch. I usually get my mileage and workouts in, but it’s not always when or how I plan. However I think the important thing is that I’m getting it done somehow, some way. There’s a saying that goes:

“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not important, you’ll find an excuse.”

Do I spring out of bed in the morning itching to get on the road? Um no. Am I looking forward to 18, 20, and 22 mile runs? Actually, I’m a little terrified. But this whole marathon training thing isn’t supposed to be a piece of cake and I continually need to remind myself of that. These next 2 months will be hard work for sure, but hopefully there will be a pay off on April 16th. And the sense of accomplishment and gratitude that comes from a good race usually makes all those early mornings and tough workouts worth it.

Lately I’ve been noticing some differences between my routine and how non-runners (or non-athletes) live there lives. Here’s what has stood out:

Priorities a.k.a. hygiene habits: Runners are a sweaty bunch, but I’ve found that we actually spend less time showering and primping than our non-running counterparts. Obviously I don’t want to smell like a homeless person, but if it’s a choice between running during my lunch break sans shower or not running at all, I will choose the miles and just use a little extra deodorant. Same thing with the morning run-commute. I get “looks” from well coiffed co-workers as I roll up to the office in workout clothes and wet hair (from the shower, not sweat!), but I don’t really care. To me, getting enough sleep and a solid run before work is more important than perfect hair and make-up.

Food consumption: I eat at least two meals a day at the office (usually breakfast and lunch) plus snacks, so it’s hard not to notice how much more I’m eating in comparison to the other people around me. Sometimes I’ll grab lunch from the cafeteria and my tray is loaded up with at least twice (maybe three times) as much food. Standing in line for the cashier, I’ll notice what others have on their trays and think: “how is that possibly a lunch for an adult? It looks like an appetizer!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about my appetite. Being able to enjoy food with gusto is one of the best things about being an athlete. I don’t run to burn calories, that has never been the goal, but sometimes I forget that running ~60 miles a week means I’m burning roughly 6,000 more calories than a sedentary person.

I really like pizza.

Entertainment: Are you a runner? Well then, your idea of “fun” might involve waking up at 6am on a Saturday to race a 10k or pay $200 to run 26.2 miles. You might say no to a late night out in lieu of waking up to do a long run the next morning. Time for some quality time with your BFF? You’re probably more likely to meet friends for a post-work run than a post-work happy hour. Sometimes I feel a little crazy when I realize I do these activities “for fun” and actually pay money to put myself through pain (um, hello racing!), but after the long run or race is over? There’s no better feeling.

Fashion choices: If I could spend all day in running tights, split shorts, or sweat pants, I’d be the happiest girl. I remember a few years ago, I was home for the holidays and still wearing my tights and windbreaker post-run. My sister and I were getting ready to go do some errands and she said: “Aren’t you going to change? I can wait.” Hah, I hadn’t even considered that spandex and fleece might not be most people’s choice for a trip to the mall. For the record, I did not change. I will gladly spend $100 on running shoes several times a year, but with the exception of my Frye boots, paying that much for non-running shoes is unthinkable. I’m definitely lower maintenance than a lot of ladies and sometimes I notice it more than others (especially in image-conscious NYC), but it all comes back to what my priorities are. I know what’s important to me and I know what I have to give up to get it.

Running shoes >>> Regular shoes (except my boots)

I think when I’m in a serious training cycle, I naturally gravitate towards people with similar schedules and goals. That’s not to say that my non-running friends and family aren’t supportive, but sometimes other runners just “get it” a little more, you know?

Have you noticed any other differences between yourself and non-runners/exercisers? I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have a non-running spouse (and maybe even kids!). 

  • great post!!! I am always the girl at work with wet hair in the morning and i don’t care!! why would I spend the extra time to blow it dry when i could be running?

  • The perception on what a ‘long run’ is varies greatly between myself and the non-runners in my life. A long run to me is 15-22, but for some of my friends and family, 2 miles is a loooong ways!

  • Anonymous

    haha so true re: perception of distance. Sometimes I’ll remark on how I need to go to the grocery store (maybe 1/2 mi away) and my family is always surprised that I’ll walk that far.

  • Haha my gym and grocery store are a half mile away and to me that’s a normal walk! And if I could live in running clothes and tennis shoes, I’d be a happy camper. 

  • So true, with the walking! Certain family members used to drive 4 BLOCKS on a regular basis. Now they walk, thankfully!

  • Runners are much more comfortable discussing poop.

  • *wearing a sportsbra and running socks under workclothes for a faster post-work change = normal
    *stretching in the elevator = normal
    *going for a TGIF bevy with friends…but still hammering out a run later = also normal

  • Runners are more attuned to the need to eat on a semi-regular schedule. Like, none of this “forgetting meals” business. I tend to not get along with people that don’t prioritize eating.

  • Ali

    Haha, I love it. That’s why having runner friends is the best: They’re down for a run & drinks rather than dinner and drinks. Plus, it’s cheaper!

  • Anonymous

    ahaha YES.

  • kim

    I love this!  I eat 4 meals a day…and I’m okay with that.  No one seems to understand my panic if we have to wait like 2 hrs for a table for brunch.  MUST. EAT. NOOOOW!

  • WORD to your “food consumption” paragraph, particularly this section: “Being able to enjoy food with gusto is one of the best things about being an athlete. I don’t run to burn calories, that has never been the goal…”
    I’m currently struggling with the decision to go on some semblance of a diet, simply because I’m so used to eating pretty much whatever I want and just running a sh*tload.. but now that I’m injured, it’s not the case and my fav jeans are a bit snug.  D*mn it!

  • Anonymous

    omg yeah…that is my worst fear…finishing a long run or something and having to wait forever to eat. an old boyfriend once told me he was going to tape a luna bar to my arm so i would never be without a snack. haha.

  • Anonymous

    i’m glad that the paragraph resonated with you 🙂 being injured is difficult, i know. without running, everything (sleeping, appetite, moods) seems a bit “off”. i hope you can heal up soon!

  • I’m totally with you, although I do like to get dressed up once in a while. It’s a hard balance with doing so much sweating and then trying to look nice without a shower. HA! I’m sure my coworkers are used to my unusual ways by now. Sweat takes priority, I eat mountains of food and sometimes I go running at lunch and don’t shower after. Oh well… it makes me happy!

  • Loved this post.  I enjoy lunch time runs, luckily, it works well with my job because I never have to worry about what I look like but some people still consider it crazy.  The amount of food I can eat definitely amazes me!

  • I love this post. It’s funny because I just remarked to my friend the other day that for my lunchtime runs, it’s the choice between a real shower or an extra mile, and, well… I won’t comment on what always wins.
    And just last night, I ordered a new (needed) pair of running sneakers for $100 without blinking an eye, but hemmed and hawed last weekend over buying a pair of $30 heels. Priorities are clearly straight.
    And as for the eating? I always have multiple snacks on me. I get “hangry” quite easily.

  • RunTheLongRoad

    i swear my nearby cubemates think all i do is eat.  which is partially true.  i’m always *trying* to discretely unwrap something and chow down.  they must wonder why i don’t weigh 300 lbs….

  • I totally relate to this post!  I eat 3 times the amount of anyone else in my office, and my running shoes are WAY more important than my regular shoes!!  (although I LOVE all shoes)…I would give anything to wear running tights and t-shirts every day..le sigh.

  • I also relate to this post…could have written it myself! When I see people going to work with their hair and makeup perfect in high heels, I’m like…if I did that everyday I would never have time to get my runs in. Air dried hair and flats please! –@ErickaAndersen:disqus

  • Caetie

    All so true! I secretly love that I wake up hungry and ready to eat (um, what else would get me out of bed). I think my favorite is when I stock up on dark chocolate at Whole Foods (when the expensive stuff goes on sale) and the lady looks at the 6 bars, and then looks at me, and a quizzical look passes over her face.

  • I agree with all of these and in particular the hygenie one.  As a consequence of all my running, my hair is always in a pony tail and I never wear makeup anymore.  But if I did all that I’d have to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier…which is just not happening.

  • Your point about hygiene is SO true! I feel like I do shower every 24 hours, but somehow I always seem to spend a significant portion of my time in sweaty workout clothes, a point that’s only exacerbated by the fact that in college, you can get away with wearing pretty much anything to class. Who knows what will happen when I get a job in the real world?

  • I no longer see the point in showering if I haven’t sweat at least once in between showers. 

  • Sveta

    Ahaha best post! I’m in the same boat, either wet or dirty hair, no time for make up or heels. Constantly eating at my desk, embarrassing moments whenever co-workers approach for a chat and my mouth is full… Ooops!

  • Hahaha so many good points!  I def rush off to class showered but a mess after the gym, eat a lot, and spend way too much money on races and gear.  I think even prioritizing the gym, workouts, training, etc is something non-runners cannot relate to.  They also don’t understand the ‘high’ of the run!

  • Anonymous

    <3 this post! And +100 to the food thing – I forget how much more I eat compared to "non-runners"! I also think other people would think planning anything at 6 a.m. is weird, let alone a run, and that it can actually be a fun social time. I also think we become immune to gross things like snot rockets 🙂 

  • Melissa @TryingtoHeal

    Hahaha…great post! I definitely feel sorry for my non-runner boyfriend who has to deal with me not changing and wearing my shorts and tank tops all the time…but I guess we balance each other since he’s usually covered in salt from the ocean from surfing. haha.  But I’m with you on the fashion front! I could live in my running attire for…ever!

  • Anonymous

    Love this post! I always look at what people are buying for lunch and wonder how it can possibly qualify as a lunch. A small cup of soup.. REALLY?! Then again they are probably looking at my tray loaded with food and wondering how I possibly eat so much….

    Non-runners get really alarmed when you say things like “I am just doing a shorter long run this week. I am only running 16 miles.” Maybe this is more for non-marathoners. Marathon training messes with perception.

  • brian

    that picture is incredible.

  • Yes to all of this – your thoughts about training (I’m right there with ya) and the runners vs. non-runners! It’s funny the things we accept as “normal” that other people would think are crazy – like the not showering after a daytime run, or the fact that I haven’t bought new work clothes in forever because I can’t afford them on top of the running clothes/shoes/race entry fees I’m buying (and yes, it’s worth it to pay big $$ to put myself through torture). 

    Sort of related to that, I was thinking about how long it takes me to get ready for work in the morning compared to how long it takes me to get ready for a long run. With work, I barely spend any time preparing. I literally throw on whatever isn’t wrinkled, make coffee and go. But before a long run, I need to go through a whole routine. I need to make sure I’ve eaten enough of the right thing AND given myself time to digest AND that I have all the necessary gels/water with me AND that my Garmin is charged AND that I’ve planned out my route…etc…etc…etc. If I have to rush through my pre-long run routine it throws off the entire run. But if I have to rush to get ready for work? No big deal.

  • mollyberries

    I love this way of life and honestly I never think twice about any of the things you mentioned unless someone brings it up. Half of my friends are just like us and running with the occassional brunch afterwards is what we do together, running IS our happy hour(s). I would never change this for the world. I often wonder what others do to fill up their days and weeks, and how they find meaning in their day? If all I had was my job, I’m pretty sure I would be a total metal train wreck.

  • This is a great post!  Thanks to Health on the Run for posting it on twitter!

    I’m so thankful that my husband and I run together or I think it would be very difficult to continue running the way I do (and talking about it obsessively).  But he’s just as bad luckily!

  • So with you on the shoes! I’ll spend so much on a pair of running shoes, but hate spending more than $20 on, say, a pair of flats. Target and Payless are always the first places I look!

  • margot

    Oh man, I think the same thing about the $$ i spend on races and shoes.  Like “why are you doing this, you could do so many more fun things…oh wait..this is my idea of fun…”
    And I also get a little embarrassed at the constant eating I do.  I should probably stop, but whatever :). Cool post. 

  • Great post, Megan! One main thing I notice is that I rarely get sick, in comparison to my co-workers who seem to get sick multiple times a year! I think it’s due to my healthy lifestyle (or just good karma). My husband (Joe!) is training for an ultra – I don’t think I could be married to someone who didn’t understand why I get up at 4:30 AM sometimes to get a 7-mile tempo run in. Not only does he understand, but he encourages it (aww)
    Oh, and I eat a lot too.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a good point about getting sick! I usually get a cold sometime in December, but other than that I’m never sick. I can’t remember the last time I had to take anti-biotics..

  • Great observations. I can totally relate, especially to the food and the shoes. Also with clothes in general… I buy a lot more workout gear these days compared to everyday clothes.

  • I agree with everything you said!! I try really hard not to get annoyed when people constantly talk about how much food I eat.  Here’s one to add: I always know the weather! 

  • I think the eating thing is definitely up there…so many people are like, “I can’t eat that, I’m watching my weight!”  etc etc.  Not when you run 50 miles/week…

    One big difference is also thinking about WHEN I’m going to run vs IF I’m going to run.  I’ve never really thought of running as “exercise,” so it not a means of fitting it in because I need to burn a certain number of calories, it’s more so about fitting it in to meet my running goals and to just make me be a pleasant person to be around…ha.

  • Pearson Smith

    There should be a certain bible written containing all of the comments above. You hit the nail on the head and unless you run, much of what was said might not resonate at all. But as a runner, you clearly described my life. As I was training for Boston here in WY, I recently had a little pain in my hip/leg area. Had to make the decision not to race in AZ for a fitness gauge half and yesterday an MRI showed I had a stress fracture in my femur. No more Boston for me and what I would give to have the routine above back in my life. Keep on training, it is worth it and be careful!

  • Anonymous

    So sorry to hear about your stress fracture :/ Rest up, heal up, and you’ll be back on the road soon!

  • I’m always fascinated by the women who are decked out from head to toe.  How long would it take to look like that each morning?  I can’t imagine spending more than 20min getting ready in the morning and I prefer it to take no more than 10min. 

  • Rachel

    True story, sometimes I run before work and just blow dry the sweat in my hair and wait to shower until I get home. <— priorities. 

  • I love this post! So true: eating more, showering less, running clothes all the time, paying 200 bucks to wake up when it’s still dark outside on a weekend morning! 

  • Love it! I have gotten the quick shower/getting ready down to 15 minutes flat..I can’t remember the last time I did my hair!
    Now most importantly…where is that amazing looking pizza from????

  • Galka

    I have kids and a non-running hubby so there are comparisons galore in this house running vs. non-running. I was thinking the other day about this and I recalled with horror that when I ran cross country in college I went straight to dinner with my non-running roommates or met with a professor and whatever club I was in straight from practice, covered in sweat and salt. I probably smelled so bad! Now at the age of 36 I at least throw on some deodorant after a run before going out somewhere! Priorities!

  • Anonymous

    the pizza is from a little place in D.C. (I forget the name…). I ate it after last year’s Cherry Blossom 10 miler 🙂

  • love the showering thing – I seriously try to plan workouts so I can consolidate showers ie run one evening and run the next morning.

    I think non-runners don’t quite get the obsession/culture. I had a friend say to me after  NYC, “So are you done with this whole marathon thing since you’ve done 3 now?” Umm, no.

  • Meister @ the Nervous Cook

    I love this post! Definitely have vastly more running shoes than “fashiony” shoes, and definitely can eat anybody under the table any time. People always stare at me when I order dinner at a restaurant: Basically, “I’ll have… one of everything.”