By: Jeremy Neisser
Most people who don’t run will think that runners are crazy, not just because of the pain and situations they put their bodies through, but also the weird habits and mentalities that runners have.
This is totally fair, but there is also a misconception surrounding runners being crazy that’s worth clearing up.
Although runners may seem crazy, it’s more of a matter of being misunderstood. Running is really no different from any other endurance sport, or any other hobby for that matter. It’s just a personal interest that people have formed a community (and personality) around — for better or for worse.
This is a simplification and generalization of a runner’s mentality, so let’s talk a little about the origins of the “crazy runner” idea and take a look at both sides of the story.
Runners are Crazy — But Also Misunderstood
Most People Only Know The PE Mile From High School
Let’s be honest, most people who don’t run regularly only really know running as the high school mile in PE class, or as the punishment they had in their other team sports when someone was late to practice. Which are both not fun…at all!
The ideas that come to mind are pain, suffering, “dying”, soreness, tiredness, etc. and some of this is definitely true and still a reality for seasoned runners too.
However, it is not the entire experience. There can be a great deal of physical and psychological satisfaction that comes from completing anything from an easy run to a taxing workout.
To be fair, it’s entirely valid to think that runners are crazy. There definitely is a certain craziness that surrounds much of running, as it does deal in quite a bit of pain.
The PE Mile in high school is a good metaphor for this. Very few people looked forward to running (or walking) the mile when that came up in class because it was a total suffer-fest for most.
Most people view running solely as an exertion, which is true, but it can be so much more. Let’s talk more about that.
It’s Not as Crazy as You Think
Although there is usually a certain level of pain that comes when just starting out in running (which is mostly because people run too hard), it’s worth considering that your body does adapt to these stresses.
Like with many things, once you do it enough, it does not hurt all of the time, and when it does it becomes satisfying.
Most people are uncomfortable in one way or another when they are trying something new, whether that be physical or mental, the sentiment stays the same. Every novel experience comes with some form of discomfort, which is completely natural.
With most activities, if you do it for long enough then you will begin to feel more comfortable with it, then if you do it for long enough, at some point you will begin craving that sensation more and more.
You might even start getting pretty good at it, and want to see how far you can push your personal limits, which is human nature.
Passion will grow and at some point, all of the good and bad from this activity becomes normal and desired.
Do you see how you can fill in the blank with just about any activity there? Running is no different than knitting, cycling, skateboarding, cooking, etc.
Everything comes with a certain level of discomfort when you are just beginning, and maybe you will even experience some discouraging experiences too, but as you improve you begin to crave bigger and better things within such activities.
Hopefully, that makes sense as a great general way to describe the process of transitioning from the “crazy runner” mentality to something that is more approachable like any other hobby or activity.
Runners Definitely Have Quirks
We are not here to be runner apologists, as they definitely have some funny quirks that could be considered weird, but maybe not crazy. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ones.
- Running in all weather conditions
- Runners who talk about running constantly to non-runners, well anyone who will listen.
- Runners who love their gear and gadgets
- The runner's diet
- Runners who are always early or late
- Runners who are obsessed talking PRs and running goals
Only Showering After Runs
There are plenty of valid reasons to think that runners are pretty weird from time to time. For instance, it's a pretty well-acknowledged generalization that runners often form the habit of only showering after runs. On days where there are no runs, then well, they may be hard-pressed to remember to take a shower for much of the day.
Always Knows The Nearest Bathroom
Another silly quirk is that runners are usually hyper-aware of bathroom options in their immediate area. This is almost an unconscious observation of their surroundings to make sure they are able to make any emergency stops if needed. Oftentimes, runners are not particularly picky people when it comes to these options either.
Always Drinking Water
If this isn’t a quirk, then it definitely should be. Oftentimes you will always see a runner carrying a water bottle, and drinking water all of the time no matter where they are or what they are doing. This is because runners tend to be chronically thirsty and feel the need to stay hydrated. You might notice that this is especially true in the warmer months of the year, for every runner from high school to masters.
Wearing “Athleisure” Apparel All The Time
This goes mostly for runners who are not working jobs that require more professional attire, but it's quite common to see runners staying comfortable in what is now known as “athleisure”, which is essentially repurposing activewear clothes as casual and everyday wear. This keeps things simple, comfortable, and always a pair of shoes away from getting out for a run.
Running Shoes as an Extension of Their Wardrobe
Speaking of shoes, runners often have a lot of shoes. And by a lot, we really do mean a lot. It's not uncommon to see some runners with upwards of 5 or 10 pairs of running shoes in their possession, and they will rotate through them all depending on the type of run they plan on doing.
This is because we runners are always looking for the perfect shoe to help them accomplish their goals.
Body Glide? Yes, Please
Weirdest of all, runners love and often use Body Glide. It's a lubricant meant to help with chafing, and it's not uncommon to see runners generously applying it before races and long runs. Runners are also fans of using Vaseline for the same reason.
Runners Think Other Spots Are Crazy Too
If you think runners are crazy it might be hard to understand why a runner might look at another hobby or sport and think that it’s unfathomable to them, but runners absolutely see others as crazy too.
Runners may be the most qualified out of everyone to look at what other runners are doing and think they are absolutely insane.
It’s entirely common for runners to look at those training more than them or racing faster times and think they are entirely different freaks of nature.
Because all runners go through some form of comparable mental strain and physical anguish, it makes observing the ones that train harder, faster, or longer seem that much crazier.
Think ultra-marathoners, marathoners, or even just incredibly fast track athletes, you could pretty much find a runner looking at these categories and thinking they are completely crazy.
Don't get me started on mid-run snot rockets and black toenails.
Many runners go through a lot of pain, and in some ways, they go to battle when they step on a starting line as well, but it’s entirely common for a runner to look at a sport like wrestling, MMA, and boxing as crazy.
These athletes getting in a ring, octagon, or cage are ACTUALLY going to battle with each other. Runners are often in a competition with themselves, or the most competitive thing they have to do is “outkick” an opponent to the finish line, which absolutely hurts.
However, it’s a different beast entirely to look your competition in the eye knowing you will need to throw punches, kicks, or impose your will onto someone in a close-up and personal way.
Needless to say, the training these combat athletes do is also just as intense and vigorous as what any runner will be doing, just in a different sort of way.
There is actually an aerobic component to combat sports that these fighting athletes need to train for, but they will also have to condition their body’s strength, athleticism, specific techniques, and spar for simulating the events that unfold on the real day of competition.
For these reasons, most runners will think an athlete in combat sports is crazy, as a sign of respect for their dedication.
So, next time you see a runner, remember that we are all a little bit crazy. We willingly put ourselves through pain and discomfort in order to better ourselves, and we definitely think others in other sports are just as wacky as we do.
Just don’t ask us about our chafing, Body Glide habits, or shaved legs. You might not like what you hear.
You may still think that runners are crazy, and maybe they are just a little bit, but hopefully, you have a broader understanding of a runner’s mindset as a whole.
Runners have quirks that can appear awkward or weird to others, but honestly who doesn’t have some sort of personal quirk? In the end, running is all in good fun, and even though it can be hard and painful it is still a healthy activity that provides a large range of health benefits.
Also, it’s super fun once you get used to it.
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Jeremy.
I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods