In no particular order some of the most common moments that many runners can sympathize, laugh and relate with:
1. Overestimating the depth/length of that puddle: You see it ahead or maybe you don’t until it is far too late but you have misjudged the jump required to avoid this puddle. As you attempt to Joyner-Kersee or Owens this long jump, today is not your day. You soak yourself in this small lake and to make matters worse you slowly realize others were in the splash zone. Slowly turning to glance behind you, all you can really offer is an awkward half smile as an apology.
2. Narrowly escaping the vicious dog: “He’s really a friendly dog.” The words the owner cups their mouth to shout to you as their ‘friendly dog’ chases you down the block. Nothing like the adrenaline rush, running for your life gives you. Say anything to this stubborn owner and its instantly your fault for not allowing their dog to make your leg its new chew toy. The edginess that haunts you the rest of the run, each time you pass another dog then makes you that awkward runner who is terrified of even the tiniest Westie.
3. Spitting, sneezing, or snotting on the competition: You think the coast is clear and you turn to the left or the right. Just as you release one of these three bodily fluids, you hear a sound something to the effect of, “Ughhhh!” Your answer: “Oops. Umm. Sorry?” The victim of this nastiness is clearly unhappy but there is no quick escape as the both of you are conveniently running identical paces.
4. Caught misusing the hand dryer in the winter: It’s freezing cold outside and you’ve stopped by the bathroom. As you finish washing your hands, you begin eyeing the hand dryer. Warming your hands underneath, “This is the best invention ever.” Attaching your shirt to the dryer or sticking a foot under the warm air, your personal moment is all too quickly interrupted. The interruption comes from a non-runner who takes a step back, gives you a Grade A judgmental look, and grabs their phone so quickly you’d think they just witnessed someone on bath salts. You scurry out of the bathroom in shame but next time you do, just think that any runner who would walk in on that would most likely give you the nod of approval and go about their business.
5. Eating ground…really hard: You stop paying attention for a mere second and thats when it happens. A tree root or a pothole and next thing you know it you are watching yourself in the third person taking a really nasty tumble. A valiant attempt at managing to save your footing, usually tends to increase how unflattering the fall looks. Just when you go to get up you are pointed out by the car slowly driving by and further humiliated by the person who attracts more attention to the fall by shouting, “Oh man! That was a really bad fall. Are you okay?”
6. The world is your bathroom: On days we aren’t lucky enough to find the secret indoor bathroom, there is always the outdoors. Whether the lines are too long, you are just plain lazy, or you have pushed yourself to your limit in your race, nothing is stopping you from just letting go whether people see you or not.
7. Porta-Potty camaraderie
There is a method to the madness. The line to these portable disasters is suppose to move fast and efficiently. You hold your breath, rush in, take care of your business, and get out. If there is no toilet paper left, you let the next person know but you don’t announce that there is no hand sanitizer.(Anyone leaving the stall after the latter such news feels guilty and judged by the rest of the world). My favorite part of this camaraderie is the collective judgment the person who screws up this system faces. People gathering from all walks of life to criticize the person who uses the bathroom too slowly, scowl and mutter at them while doing a casual quad stretch. If you are this person, yes – everyone was just talking about you.
8. Hitting the wall
I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m losing. I’m losing. It could be the long stretch at the end of a cross country race or road race or even the bell lap on the track but you’re feeling awesome and running confidently. Then suddenly something switches, things don’t feel as good as they first did and there is nothing you can do to change it or stop it. You instantly come to the realization that you are quickly approaching the wall. You can see this wall and as you continue to try to hold out from getting passed, the wall starts to win until you’ve finally hit it. Boom. Everyone around you seems to have jumped on the express train and well, your stalled on the tracks (sometimes literally).
9. Cookie tossing
Have you ever had ‘that stomach cramp’ at the beginning of the race? This isn’t any old cramp, this one feels…different. You know this one will stick around for quite awhile. If you are lucky it will remain just a cramp and if you aren’t you know that getting sick is around the corner. Whether it is in front of that attractive guy/girl who is congratulating you at the end of your race or while you release inhuman sounds during your race as you make a brave attempt at choking back breakfast; tossing your cookies happens to the best of us runners. It’s just unfortunate that often it happens at the most inopportune times.
10. The epic second wind “It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s that runner from the back of the pack!” Watching the underdog come from the back to win a race is always incredibly exciting to watch. What trumps even that is being the underdog and running that race yourself. It is a sensational feeling as you continue to pick people off one by one. There is no slowing you down and excitement pushes you forward a step at a time. The final stretch lies before you and so does the person in first. Unbelieving spectators whispers sound of, “There is no way they’re going to catch them!” You fly by and crossing that finish line is pure bliss.
11. The ridiculously un-photogenic guy
Everyone has that one racing photo of them they hide at all cost. Most would give their first child to make sure that this photograph wasn’t seen by the general public. It’s frightening, ghastly, grotesque, menacing, and any other adjective that would be considered a synonym for disgusting. However these hidden-floorboard worthy pictures always seem to surface at the worst times and the most public places. The public Facebook photo album, re-tweeted picture, Internet search or newspaper won’t seem to allow them to disappear.
12. That obnoxious guy cheering for the person next to you
“They’ve got nothing left! Pass them!” These screams come from the obnoxious person cheering for the runner immediately next to you or attempting to pass you. Did this screamer really think you would give up without a fight? These comments give you just enough motivation to not let this one runner get by you. As the sprint off commences and you run into this crass fan after having won, make sure to shoot them a full smile. Perhaps even thank them for the heads up.
13. Car complications
A short list of most common grievances: the driver who doesn’t look right as you’re running in front of their car, getting love-tapped by the car of an unapologetic driver who waves you to get out of the way, the obnoxious member of the opposite sex who makes multiple drive-bys while honking, the driver whose car gets too close for comfort, the driver that blinds you with their headlights, and the driver who commits something so atrocious they earn themselves the runner’s car slap (smacking a car as a warning).
14. The dramatic finish
A dramatic finish is not something any runner should aspire for. As opposed to the second wind this finish has a negative connotation to it. Typically it entails being a drama king/queen, faking an injury, writhing on the ground after a loss, bragging, victory dances, bad sportsmanship, public whining and trash talking. This is the runner you don’t want to be…ever!
15. iPod dying mid-run
It’s been a long week but you muster the energy to go for that long run you’ve been dreading. Today, you desperately need music to keep your mind off everything that hurts and genuinely doesn’t want to move. You grab your iPod and head out the door. Halfway through your run, just when you need a distraction, the music cuts like in a bad movie when a character says something awkward. It is abruptly silent and as you look at the iPod before you, the memory of forgetting to charge it surfaces into your conscience. No! Oh well, nothing to do but keep running to the sound of the anguish you are feeling.
16. The pity clap
The pity clap is maybe the worst possible feeling. Both committing the pity clap and receiving it just feels incredibly awkward for everybody involved. There is no better way to nonverbally say, “You are the slowest person here,” or any better inspiration to run faster to make it stop. It is the equivalent of the everyday person’s slow clap.
17. The violent start
No one in your race can seem to tuck their elbows in long enough to have a clean start to your race. After three call backs to the line due to people taking tumbles, any additional starts and you will have unofficially run half the distance of your actual race. People are shoving, clawing, clipping heels, and generally unpleasant. Sometimes this is accidental from the stress of the start but nobody likes a dirty runner who continues this behavior throughout the race.
18. The guy who wants to race
This person is insistent in not just keeping up with you but actually beating you. You may be running a comfortable training pace but they are all about racing you. As the situation becomes uncomfortable you suddenly find yourself picking up the pace, as they continue to egg you on to “Keep up!” When you do pass this person, in a strange way you can help but feel victorious as you leave them in the dust.
19. The misinformed fan
You are half way into your race and there is more than one mile left, that or you are entirely aware that a difficult segment is steadily approaching. The spectators on the sidelines are cheering everyone on and incredibly supportive. Then, there is that one person who was dragged along to the race and lets out the silencing shout of “You’re almost done!” You aren’t almost done though. Its hard to say what is more upsetting when you actually believe that person and start running harder or when you know they are terribly wrong and have quite a while to go.
20. Perking up for Mr. or Miss Perfect
That awkward moment when you see someone running towards you and they seem attractive. You immediately correct your form, posture, and hair in the most blatantly obvious way. Humorous to watch others do it, don’t be fooled you look the same way.
About the Author: Marie Walsh is a senior at Rice University, who runs for the Owl’s Cross Country and Track & Field Team. An avid runner, she loves to learn whatever she can about the sport and spread the knowledge.
Follow Marie: @MarieAWalsh