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Pilk’s Points: Real Runners Go Commando (and Other Myths)

Associate editor Caitlyn Pilkington clears the air and validate those millions of unique runner identities.

Associate editor Caitlyn Pilkington clears the air and validates those millions of unique runner identities.

I’ve been running competitively for 13 years, and as any runner might tell you, running is a traditionally ugly sport. The definition of glory errs on the side of sweat-streaked faces, split running shorts, gruesome ‘money shots’ and saliva-stained tomato cheeks. The more disgusting you look crossing the finish line, the more fellow runners applaud your effort.

While this may hold true for that tight group of elite professionals and their followers, what about the other millions of runners in America? I have met hundreds of runners, and I have heard some atrocious hypotheses on what separates ‘someone who runs’ from a ‘real runner’. The definition of a runner is simple: A person who runs.

In an effort to clear the air and validate those millions of unique runner identities, here are 10 other common myths surrounding the subject:

1. Real runners don’t run with music. If this were true, why do runners continuously worship Eye of the Tiger? Although there are various studies on the effects of rocking and running simultaneously, listening to music during your daily jaunt does not make you any less of a runner than the rest. I consider myself a fairly advanced competitor, and I admittedly rock out to “Gangnam Style” while regularly clocking 7:30 miles.

2. Real runners know all relevant elites. Just because I squeal at the opportunity to meet Shalane Flanagan doesn’t mean you’re required to as well. Being a runner isn’t about how much you know. It’s about how much you don’t know and how much you’re willing to learn about yourself. Although, if given the opportunity, I highly recommend meeting Shalane and bragging about it to me.

3. Real runners go for time. False. Real runners go to finish. Time is relative – racing to better your own personal record is more glorifying than beating your coworker. And while I thrive off of trash talk and competition among my peers, my biggest competition is myself. This may or may not include trash talking myself in the mirror in the morning.

4. Real runners go commando. I have a lucky pair of underwear. You heard it here first.

5. Real runners run before the sun rises. Well duh! Elites get paid to do these crazy things – they have to run early to fit in the other 15 workouts they do throughout the day. But for us civilian runners, beds are comfortable and alarm clocks are evil. Instead, run after work while rush hour calms down. Running is a caffeine jolt for me, but I still enjoy my Zs over headlamps.

6. Real runners read running books. I will be the first to say that Born to Run is a pretty solid read. However, my noggin still needs alternative stimulation. This doesn’t mean I don’t beeline to the “Sports – R” section of Barnes & Noble (because I do); it means that I commend those who read what they love, whether that’s the latest from Dean Karnazes or US Weekly. Read what inspires — inspiration is the greatest brain candy.

7. Real runners own a GPS watch. Um, GPS watches are expensive. They are great for runners tracking pace, but proceed with caution. GPS watches can make you a split slave, unable to focus on the experience over the time. One of the most freeing things I did this month was to head out for a run without my GPS watch. Alas, I was freed of my self-inflicted shackles. A GPS watch is definitely a reasonable investment, but it’s not a social requirement among the running community.

8. Real runners race. If this is your purpose and your drive, then yes, real runners race. But find your own purpose and drive. A bib does not define a runner. A bib defines an infant eating out of a high chair.

9. Real runners follow a training plan. I’ve been running competitively since I was 13 years old, and I followed my first real training plan when I turned 26. I tend to run against the grain of ‘traditional training’ (often times to my own demise – I don’t recommend it), but training is also relative. Keys to a good training plan are a good coach, good discipline, and good humor. Find a coach who believes in you and your goals, not one who challenges you and discourages your goals. Good discipline comes from within, and humor…well, humor comes with the territory. Runners have no shame — anything goes out on those trails.

10. And finally, real runners don’t wear running skirts. I admit it: I am not a running skirt kind of gal. But if you’ve ever met the women behind Skirt Sports or Running Skirts, you can’t help but notice their perfect running physique, their passion and support for the sport and their solid business model. I have nothing but respect for each brand, and there’s nothing wrong with embracing womanhood while “chicking” every dude along the course.