10 Things Not to Say to a Runner

by Paul L. Underwood
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10 Things Not to Say to a Runner

As a runner, you understand you are an exotic bird, a strange, beautiful creature separate and apart from the rest of humanity, a being so distant that a mere mortal can hardly understand you and your essence.

No, wait. That’s not right. You’re a regular person who happens to run. But for some reason, non-runners treat you like a weirdo. Here are a few things you probably hear again and again from non-runners (and a few you might hear from fellow members of the tribe).

1. “RUNNING IS SO BORING.”

Maybe it is. Lots of things are boring. Driving is boring. Riding in an elevator is boring. Unless … you make those things not boring? Listen to music. Or a podcast. Meditate on a challenge at work. Or in your family. Or in your relationships. Look around. Become one with your surroundings. Or just focus on you. To quote the great philosopher Louis C.K.: “Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly … The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’”

2. “ISN’T RUNNING BAD FOR YOUR KNEES?”

Well, kind of. Running, like any exercise, entails some level of injury risk. But here’s the thing: Running, like any exercise, is also better for you than not running. Or exercising. You see where we’re going with this? The worst thing for your knees is sitting around doing nothing. Runners choose to run. What you do instead is up to you.

3. “RUNNING IS SO HARD.

Well, sure. The average person can’t just get off the couch one day and run a marathon. But you don’t need a gym membership. You don’t need special equipment. You don’t even need to drive anywhere or take the train. You just need to get up, put one foot in front of the other and go. (And hey, even if you can’t run all that far, you can get a lot of health benefits from plain old walking. That’s not so hard, is it?)

4. “YOU RAN IN THE RAIN?”

Actually, rain makes running seem super-cool and cinematic. Epic even. But we get it, it’s not for everybody.

5. “I WISH I HAD THE TIME/ENERGY/DRIVE TO RUN.”

You do! Believe in yourself! Manage your time! Make it happen!

6. “I’D RATHER SLEEP IN.”

Cool, but you know what? Sleeping in and running aren’t mutually exclusive. Because, according to our extensive study and research, you can actually run … in the afternoon. Or at night. Or whenever the heck you want. Crazy!

7. “DID YOU WIN YOUR RACE THIS WEEKEND?”

Yeah, no. I came in 287th. Or 3,451st. Or whatever. Because, and this might be difficult to wrap your head around, the goal of the race is not to actually win the race. I mean, sure, some super-fast, well-trained human beings are trying to win. But most runners are not one of those. I did, however, beat my personal best. And I ate a free bagel! Side note: No one ever asks me this, probably because the answer is an obvious no, and because I haven’t entered a race. Which brings me to …

8. “YOU SHOULD RUN A RACE.”

No, I shouldn’t. I mean, maybe. But the idea of paying money to run in a pack of who knows how many people, all to get a participation trophy? It’s not for me. I get why people do it. But it’s not for me.


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9. “HOW MANY MARATHONS HAVE YOU RUN?”

I’ve run zero, a figure I expect to grow by approximately zero over the course of my lifetime. Not all runners run marathons, just like not all dog owners run the Iditarod. Marathons are tough and wonderful and inspiring as all get-out. But they’re not for everybody. Even people who run a lot.

10. “WHAT ARE RUNNING FOR?”

There’s an old Bill Hicks joke about the difference between people who ask “What are you reading?” and “What are you reading for?” The point is, people who ask the latter question are dolts. Sort of like people who ask what are you running for.

BONUS: FROM ONE RUNNER TO ANOTHER, “WHAT’S YOUR PACE?”

This is like asking someone what they lift. It’s understandable, everyone’s a little curious, everyone wants to know if they’re “normal,” whatever that means. But … yeah. It’s the pace that suits me. It (quite literally!) isn’t a race.


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  • Matthew Nolan

    Maybe not quoting Louis CK in your 10 things not to say to a runner!!!!

  • Masey Cason

    Love this read. I love Bill Hicks and thank you for referencing him!

    • Masey Cason

      “WHATCHU READIN’ FOR?”

  • Amy Cahill

    How do you stay motivated with no music. My son quit football to run cross country and absolutely loved it- as a Junior in High School. But OHSAA rules, they can not run with music. That was a struggle. Any suggestions

    • Mike Collins

      I never run with music…for one, if you are in an area with cars, it can be extremely unsafe. The other thing for me is that it is not as easy to listen to your body when music is distracting you. You want to be able to listen to your body, because if something is wrong, you want to avoid making it worse, and if you feel great, you want to capitalize! But otherwise…runs for me are ‘sacred,’ in the sense that when I am running, it is my time to be alone and think, something that I don’t often get to do. So if he struggles not being able to listen to music while he is running, I would suggest that he lets his mind wander and lets himself turn over different things in his mind. I can’t tell you how many of my problems (work, home, or school) I have solved by just thinking through everything on a run. Good luck to him, and I hope he sticks with it!