I was running in the Park with my running club tonight, and it occurred to me that being a runner is a unique thing. But it is not unlike other unique things, or states of life. For instance, toddlerhood.
Being a runner is quite a bit like being a toddler. Behold:
1) Like any good toddler, you are fascinated by your feet; find you are paying an inordinate amount of attention to your feet.
2) It somehow becomes socially acceptable to pee in public — not merely necessary, but acceptable. In the same way other parents might give a knowing nod to a parent with a toddler peeing in the park, so too do runners nod at their golden-showering breathren.
3) In the same vein, toilet-training and bowel-control suddenly become unpredictable again when you are a runner. Pooping your pants — this is not a matter of if it will happen to you, more of when it will happen to you. And somehow, this, too is socially acceptable when you are running.
4) You find that every time you go anywhere, you have a bag full of extra crap: wicking clothes; special socks; sippy waterbottles; little packets of nutrition.
5) Much like the laundry of young children, your laundry again must be quarantined…because it is always damp; often sticky; typically covered in unidentifiable substances, some of which may or may not be body fluids.
6) You will have an I don’t want to go on/I can’t do it/Are we there yet tantrum at some point — arguing only with yourself. It may be at Mile 2; it may be at Mile 24. (In running, the severe form of this is called “bonking” or “hitting a wall.” The milder form is what I refer to as a “body tantrum.”)
7) Training season: 8pm bedtime + 5am wake-up + the frequent desire/need to nap.
8 ) Hunger strikes somewhat unpredictably; you become a tantrummy monster.
9) You are often covered in unexplained boo-boos — scrapes, burns, bruises — as if you were just learning to walk.
10) You lose all sense of modesty and fashion: stripping off fetid clothing at a race finish, desperate to cool down; changing clothes in front of others pre-race; dressing yourself up in ridiculous, puffy get-ups at start-lines in the cold…someone will snap a photo of you and it will look suspiciously like the photo of you half-dressed in a parka, circa 1978 — that one the weekend that Mommy went away and left Daddy in charge of care and feeding of the children.
But as a runner you lace up, and you go out, and do it again — bodyfluids; exhaustion; bad-fashion notwithstanding. Perhaps the reason for this is — and I learned this from watching a friend’s two year old determinedly tear the remnants of her laptop apart bit by bit — toddlers and runners both have an incredible desire to persevere.