Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The idiot's guide to conversing with non-runners

As regular (or regular-ish) runners, we like to talk about running. A lot. Sometimes we even forget that there are, in fact, other things to talk about. Like the national debt crisis. Or the Casey Anthony verdict. Or, if you’re my mom, the Canadian neighbors’ growing collection of lawn ornaments.

While it’s OK to talk running with other avid runners, it is generally less acceptable to burden members of the non-running population with longwinded stories about your personal training and racing experiences.

Have your family, friends and casual acquaintances consistently avoided interacting with you in a social capacity? It’s probably because they cannot stand the thought of having to sit through one more of your extensive monologues on the merits of pace progression runs.

It’s not your fault. You love running, and you enjoy sharing that passion with people you know and care about. But if you want to reclaim your social life and shed your image as a total running geek, you need to ditch that pacing slide-rule and learn how to converse like a normal human.

I have created the following compilation of hypothetical conversations—complete with common mistakes and suggested alternatives—for your educational pleasure.


Scenario 1 – The marathon play-by-play

Runner: So I ran a marathon in Oregon last weekend.

Normie: Oh, wow. Those are, like, over 20 miles, right?

Runner: Yeah, 26.2 actually. And I’ll tell you what, that last .2 is a real doozy.

Normie: [uncertain of whether that was a joke, but forcing laughter just in case] Ha. Ha.

Runner: Yeah, but I’ll tell you what wasn’t funny—no water station after that 1.5-mile, 5 percent-grade hill climb at mile 18.

Normie: [rapidly losing interest and beginning to scan the room for someone else (anyone else!) to talk to] Uh huh, that sounds terrible.

Runner: Oh, believe me, it was. Especially considering I had maintained an average pace of 7:02 per mile up until that point. But then things really started to fall apart…shin splints, plantar fasciitis, nipple chafage—it was like everything that could go wrong, did.

Normie: [with a look of utter disgust] Nipple chafage?


Remember, once the phrase “nipple chafage” has been introduced in the conversation, there is little that can be done to salvage the interaction. Your poor listener will probably go to great lengths to avoid talking to you in all future social situations. Here is an example of how to properly handle this particular scenario:


Runner: So I ran a marathon in Oregon last weekend.

Normie: Oh, wow. Those are, like, over 20 miles, right?

Runner: Yep, it’s definitely not a sprint. Have you ever run a race?

Normie: I once lost a bet and ran a Halloween 5K in a Gumby suit.

Runner: That’s hilarious! How did it go?


Scenario 2 – The unsolicited nutritional advice

Normie: Dude, the hor d’oeuvres at this party are duh-licious! Have you tried the shrimp wontons yet?

Runner: Actually, I’ve been trying to stay away from fried foods. They are full of trans fat and have been linked to health problems like cancer and obesity.

Normie: Um, OK, but they’re tasty.

Runner: So are baked pita chips and hummus. Plus, the protein is great for muscle recovery.


Nobody likes a self-righteous food patrolman. Save your criticism about other peoples’ dietary preferences for a long run with your training buddies. You can sing the praises of Greek yogurt all you want without unknowingly projecting any judgmental undertones. Here’s a better way to navigate this kind of situation:


Normie: Dude, the hor d’oeuvres at this party are duh-licious! Have you tried the shrimp wontons yet?

Runner: Not yet, man. I sort of killed the veggie tray, and I’m feeling a little bloated.

Normie: Sweet, more wontons for me!


Scenario 3 – The extended injury report

Normie: So how’s the running going?

Runner: Not so good, actually. I have a stress reaction in my left tibia, so I’m out for at least three weeks.

Normie: Aww, bummer, dude. When did that happen?

Runner: Well, I’ve felt pain for awhile, but I finally asked the doctor about it a couple of weeks ago. When nothing turned up on the MRI, he figured it was probably a stress reaction instead of a stress fracture. It was my own fault, I guess. I had increased the length of my long run by 15 miles in three weeks, and I was bumping up my mileage by over 20 percent a week for a month straight.

Normie: [struggling to keep pretending he cares] Oh…

Runner: Yeah, but I’ve been able to do some cross training in the pool, which has been good for me—you know, working all those muscles that I wouldn’t use otherwise. I’m actually thinking about ordering my own aqua running belt and staying with it after my leg has healed. I figure it might be a nice training supplement, you know?


To someone who has absolutely no experience with running injuries, everything after “MRI” sounded like an Ozzy Osbourne monologue. Once you find yourself talking about things like the percentage increase of your weekly mileage, you have gone too far. Here is how you should have handled this conversation:


Normie: So how’s the running going?

Runner: Not so good, actually. I messed up my leg, so I’m out for a few weeks.

Normie: Aww, bummer, dude. When did that happen?

Runner: I just found out about it a few days ago. But oh well, I probably needed a break anyway, right?

Normie: Yeah, man, you run way too much! Your legs will probably enjoy the rest. Since you can’t run, we should catch a flick sometime.

Runner: Cool, I’ll give you a call this weekend.

3 comments:

  1. Great stuff - so accurate. Being the 'food police' here at work, I get a lot of people saying they miss 'Fun Dave' - from the Pre-Runner-Dave days that is.

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  2. Thanks guys! PS: Dave, I totally blog-creeped on you and found out you are from Toronto. How can you eat healthy with the constant temptation of Timbits?

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