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Out There: Things Forgotten When Not Running

Do you remember your days as a non-runner?

Do you remember your days as a non-runner?

Though I haven’t always been a runner, I’ve been immersed in this lifestyle so deeply I’d forgotten what it’s like to not run. I used wax to poetically about my pre-running days, when life was full of tacos, tequila and sleeping in until 11 a.m.

That is, until I got injured. For almost six months I was banned from running. During that time, I learned, like a hot ex-boyfriend or childbirth, nostalgia only remembers the good stuff and tends to block out all of the bad.


By American standards, I’m a healthy eater. As a vegetarian, I’m pretty conscious of what I ingest and when I’m training, I treat food as fuel for the luxury automobile that is my body. But if you’re a Pinto sitting on a bunch of concrete blocks in the front yard, does it really matter if you put sugar in the gas tank?

My doctor may have diagnosed a knee injury, but my taste buds were affected, too. Slowly but surely, vegetables became a foreign concept. The pillars of nutrition crumbled before my very eyes, much like the Cheez-Its I ate for breakfast.

Free Time

I used to envy non-runners and their free time. Those who didn’t have to spend an extra hour foam rolling or driving to an obscure park for a race seemed to have all the time in the world. I used to fantasize about the things I would do if running didn’t take up so much of my time: I’d have a clean house, I’d take up gourmet cooking, and the laundry would always be folded. Yes, somehow I would be a Stepford Wife!

In actuality, I watched a lot of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” My brain cells may regenerate, but I’ll never fully recover.

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Voluntary Use of Showers

I was having coffee with a non-running friend when I revealed I hadn’t showered in two days. She wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“You mean, you haven’t showered at all? Not even a quick shampoo?”



“I haven’t needed to.”

“But don’t you feel … dirty?”

There have been two times in my life I’ve felt dirty. Once was after a 115-mile bike ride in 100-degree heat. The second was after an impromptu mud bath during a trail race. I understand the necessity of a post-run shower, but I don’t need a scrub down after watching TV in air-conditioning. Dirty? Please.

Polite Conversation

During my time as a non-runner, I learned there are words not acceptable for conversational use. These include, but are not limited to: chafing, nipple, GI issues, runner’s trots, blister, popping, supination, pee, boob sweat, LSD, snot rocket, bonk, toebox, swamp ass, fartlek, moisture, and cramp.

As you can imagine, I did not have much to contribute to tête-à-têtes under these social mores. Mostly, I just nodded awkwardly between bites of cookies.

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“Anger” is almost unheard of for runners — 99 percent of all rage can be dissolved with a good run. After lacing up, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and my bad jokes are funny again.

But when you can’t run, everyone’s a jerk. Everyone. The pimply-faced teenager working at the store that’s out of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor? He’s a jerkface. People that own cars and have the nerve to drive them on the same roads I’m trying to traverse? Rude. My partner, who I promised to unconditionally love and cherish forever? I’m going to attack him with my pool floaty if he eats my Cheez-Its again.

The day the doctor cleared me to run again was the best day of my life. But in a way I’m grateful for this forced hiatus. My foray into the non-running world confirmed what I had long suspected: We’re not the only nutbags in the world. Runner or not, we’re all a bunch of crazy kooks.

But runners? They’re my kind of kooks. I’m happy to be back with my people.

This column first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke