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We learn to run before we learn to use a fork. Running is intuitive; after all, at one time humans had to run for their supper, had to run away from saber-tooth tigers and eventually gladiators and outlaws on the plains. From childhood play to survival, running was never an activity that needed explanation.

These days it is easy to learn about running, e.g. how to run “correctly” and what to wear. You can Google “Best Way to Fuel” and “10 Ways to Tie Your Shoes,” and we are grateful and better off for it.

And then there are the things no one ever tells you — like how hard running will be on some days and how not-so-hard on others. There’s that whole “runner’s high” thing and so many shoes to consider.

Depending on the day, running becomes your best friend and your most scorned associate because of how it makes you feel and what you discover about yourself, your friends, strangers and the world.

So with the help of like-minded running friends, I’m here to share some of this “insider’s knowledge” with you, so you know that if you have ever had these thoughts, you’re not alone! And if you’re new to the running game, don’t be scared. Perspectives change, and preparation is everything.

All the Miles

  • When looking at mileage on road signs you’ll think, “Hmm, I could run there.”
  • It becomes clear that a tail wind will never make up for the headwind when you turn around; that whole thing about speed and velocity in 8th grade science class suddenly makes sense.
  • You’ll start to think driving 26.2 miles feels longer than running it. And that one mile alone is much harder than 15 miles with friends.
  • Driving across a parking lot to get to another shop will seem ludicrous.
  • You’ll drive ten miles, just to run five!
  • As you get close to the end of your run, you’ll think of distance in terms of laps around a track: “Only three more laps to go!”
  • While calculating miles, you’ll find yourself figuring out the food you can eat afterward.
  • You’ll know exactly where one mile is from any location.
  • You’ll understand the difference between a minute and a treadmill minute.  And that one “dreadmill” mile takes longer to finish than 5 road miles.
  • You’ll run back and forth in front of your house to get your Garmin to an even 0.25 or 0.50 or 0.00.

The body and all its parts

  • Your resting heart rate and blood pressure will go down so much the nurse will check them twice.
  • Your lung capacity will expand.
  • You will begin comparing your calves to other people’s calves, everywhere you go, not just at races.
  • You will be caught stretching previously unknown body parts, such as the piriformis muscle.
  • You’ll know what a piriformis muscle is. And an IT Band.
  • You will understand terms like “leg turnover” and “fast twitch/slow twitch” and “dead legs” and “intervals” and “negative splits”. You will then bore others with this information.
  • You’ll learn that a lube job is no longer just for your car and that Vaseline can be your best friend, especially on hot days!
  • You’ll go to bed before your kids, and your vacations will be planned around races.
  • You’ll have no problem talking about chafing body parts, leakage, poop, etc, even with a new running partner.
  • You’ll still buy diaper rash ointment even if you haven’t had babies in years, because you know it’s the best cure for ALL chafing,
  • You’ll fart (or burp) openly in front of anybody!
  • You’ll never be able to get a pedicure again. Or sadly, you won’t get a pedicure discount for having only 8 toenails.
  • You’ll learn wearing pretty shoes isn’t worth not being able to run. And that cute shorts aren’t so cute once your thighs are chafed.
  • You’ll realize that nothing compares to the horror of being miles from home with no bathroom in sight when Nature calls.and you have to poop, like right now. In fact, Porta Potties are no longer avoided, but celebrated.


All the stuff

  • Foam rollers will no longer be just for your hair.
  • You will accumulate a lot of safety pins but still take four when you pick up your race bib, all the while thinking, “I probably don’t need these, but just in case someone took all 200 of mine.”
  • Moisture-wicking fabric will no longer sound like something you don’t need.
  • To make room for run tops, shorts, bras, cups, socks and race shirts you will find many, many things that do not “bring you joy.”
  • You’ll drop the dolla dolla bills on said shorts, tights and sports bras, while the rest of your wardrobe is from Target and H&M.
  • An entire wall in your [garage, bedroom, family room, office] will be covered with race bibs and medal hangers.
  • Your bike tires will last way longer.
  • You’ll describe the age of your shoes in miles instead of months or years.
  • You’ll discover socks (or bandanas, if you’d rather not run with one sock) make great toilet paper in a pinch.

The new normal

  • You will become familiar with your neighborhood in ways you’ve always missed while driving: front porches, smells, lawn ornaments, shadows, animal tracks and even the sound of your own breathing.
  • Travel will take on a whole new dimension with itineraries leaving the wine tastings for Monday.
  • You will meet other runners and share tips unsolicited, such as where the best trails are and which races have good swag, and you will know what good swag means.
  • You’ll gladly hand over money to run for a shiny medal, a t-shirt you’ll likely never wear and the prospect of free chocolate milk and a banana.
  • You used to see “k” behind a number and think of money, but 5k means something completely different now.
  • You’ll say candy is no longer for my sweet tooth, because gummy bears and jellybeans are FUEL!
  • You won’t recognize each other if you aren’t wearing running attire.
  • Your ability to do math in your head will improve, and you’ll calculate miles by how many songs, minutes and hours.
  • You’ll start using “only” in front of the miles you are running. “Oh good, I only have 8 miles scheduled for today.”
  • You’ll think you’ve mastered the whole “breathe through your nose” rule, but the camera will say “nay.” Then again, have you ever seen a picture of Shalane running with her mouth closed? I bet not!
  • You will insist your bridesmaids complete a race with you instead of a Vegas weekend.

Running with wise and wonderful human beings

  • You’ll discover you’re much nicer when you run.
  • Some of your favorite people are those you only see at races.
  • You’ll find when training for your first marathon that all you want to do is announce your long run miles to the world, but no one cares… except fellow runners.

What no one tells you is that the world is full of wonderful people who may not tell you everything you will need to know, but who will be there when you need a high five and to listen to you talk about your glutes and GI problems. In turn, you will check in with them on Sunday afternoons to see how the race went and give them a virtual fist bump, hoping it is a fitting repayment.

And a huge shout-out to the two dozen members of my running tribe who contributed their invaluable insights and hilarious quips to this article, more evidence of why the running community is so amazing: Amber L, Andrea G, Anna D, Beth C, Cathy M, Corrina B, Courtney B, DaisyChris W, Diana M, Emi O, Erica, H, Jill M, Karen S, Karina R, Kath M, Laura C, Laura T, Maria M, Michelle L, Nancy M, Rachel V, Shannon D, Sky H and Tina C!

Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite story about the unexpected joys (or perils) of running?

Want to receive Coach Bette’s monthly column in your Inbox? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter or sign up as a RaceRaves member (it’s free)! And read her most recent column here.

About our columnist:

Betty Hagerty columnist photoBette Hagerty decided to run a 5K in 1992 after a few months of running around her neighborhood, using her car’s odometer to measure distances. When she found herself among a few hundred people talking about running, she knew she had found her community. Since then she has run several hundred races, from 5K to marathon distance and helped form two running groups.

Bette is an RRCA Certified Running Coach and posts weekly Tuesday workouts on instagram as @BetteRunning. Her passions for running and writing have finally run into each other, and she looks forward to sharing her experiences and knowledge. She welcomes your glowing compliments at [email protected].

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