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Out There: Runger, And Its Bizarre Side Effects

What’s the strangest food you’ve craved after a run?

“I can’t believe you kiss me with that mouth.”

My husband, Neil, looked at me with utter disgust as he tossed a napkin in my direction. Sheepishly, I wiped the peanut butter and marinara sauce from my upper lip.

“So gross,” Neil chuckled as he walked away to find a more sensible meal in the fridge.

This, coming from a man who scoops up canned clam chowder with potato chips after his long training days. I’m the gross one? I beg to differ.

For the most part, I know how to cook. I don’t know how to cook well, but I know enough to avoid food poisoning. On a good day, I can measure and whisk and season until something resembling a healthy dinner manifests.

On long run day, however, I’m not capable of such sorcery. Apparently, mileage and culinary ability are mutually exclusive. After 8 miles, it’s guaranteed I’m making leftovers for dinner. More than 14, and I lose my ability to correctly fill a ramen cup with water. Anything after 18 miles usually ends with frosting in a can while mumbling “food to the face hole.”

My favorite post-run meal, however, is the one that makes Neil shake his head in disbelief every time: cold pizza with peanut butter smeared over the congealed cheese and toppings. Don’t you dare judge me—it’s so damned delicious, it brings tears to my eyes. (Perhaps that’s low blood sugar talking). I would never crave peanut-butter pizza as a regular meal, but after a long run, it’s all I can think about.

Runger, the extreme, all-encompassing ravenousness that takes over after a long run, makes pregnant women look like amateurs at the odd-food game. Pickles and ice cream? Grilled cheese and ketchup? Pssht, please.

“I was running long one day, when I started craving caffeinated almond butter,” said my friend Jason during a discussion of weird eating habits. “I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was so obsessed with it, as soon as I got home I poured cold coffee from that morning’s pot into a blender with a huge dollop of almond butter.”

“And?” I prompted, making a mental note of the recipe for future use.

“It was nasty,” he shuddered. “I drank the whole thing, though.”

But he’s not alone…

“I mix chocolate chips and sriracha into my greek yogurt,” confessed Jenny.

“A few shakes of soy sauce, straight from the bottle into my mouth,” Matt chimed in.

Intrigued, I e-mailed more of my running and triathlon friends and colleagues, asking for their strangest runger-induced concoctions. They didn’t disappoint: garbanzo beans eaten out of the can, cold hot dogs dipped in queso, waffles made of tater tots, frozen grapes drizzled with chocolate syrup, and mayonnaise sandwiches. One of my ultrarunner friends from Wisconsin swears lutefisk (a Norwegian plate of fish soaked in lye) is disgusting and gag-worthy—unless he’s just come in from a three-hour run, in which case it’s the best thing ever. Another friend keeps at least two family-sized jars of pickles at eye level in her refrigerator at all times during marathon season, merely to sip on the juice.

Runger, man. It does weird things to your taste buds.

We can be better than this. We should be better than this. Our pristine, athletic bodies are supposed to be treated as the temples of health they are, nourished with salads and sea kelp and magic organic superberries from the fancy expensive market down the street. Logically, we know this.

But “Food-to-Face-Hole” Mode is never logical, and runger doesn’t always crave healthy, sane foods. After a long training day, my body is less of a temple and more like the dumpster behind Roy Rogers. The food choices we make aren’t always sensible, but they sure are satisfying.

So what’s a runner to do? Eat up. Like a pregnant woman only gets a 9-month window to ask her spouse to make a midnight run for fried chicken, that golden window after a long run should be savored. Whether your post-run craving is strange, sinful, or a little bit of both, it’s okay to give in once in a while. Measuring and whisking and seasoning and all the sea kelp in the world can wait until tomorrow, for today is long run day, and my brain cells can only handle two things: peanut butter and pizza.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to make dinner.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke