The Dual Personalities of Runners: Switching from ‘life’ mode to ‘race’ mode

Runners have a kind of dual personality thing going on, which is really quite interesting. Not the doctors in white coats and clipboards kind of multiple personalities, but rather, a stark difference between ‘life’ and ‘training/racing mode’ personalities.
runner fashionista
The ‘life’ side of runners is typically one of being slightly awkward, but in a lovable way. That thing about smiling at strangers, I think runners are typically more apt to have a smile quick at hand. Maybe it’s the fast-twitch muscle response that just carries over into our cheek muscles.

It kind of throws people a bit, especially these days when more and more people seem to be kind of ‘hard’ or harsh. I’ve found that runners, be it by choice or perhaps a bit of childlike naiveté, tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and will go out of their way to help others. Sometimes it bites us in the bums, but at the same time I’d like to think we, and those around us, are better for it overall.
run to beat you
I used to have a friend who said she could tell someone was a runner by the way they walked, an extra kind of bounce in their stride. Runners tend to walk faster than ‘normal people’ too, sort of like walking with purpose; or probably more correctly we get bored of walking because it’s just too darn slow and getting places takes forever.

Runners do tend to vary in that some are incredibly shy and not overflowing with words until you know them while others, ahem like me, probably make up for those lost words and then some. I love the sense of humor of runners; quirky could be an understatement, we relish in poop jokes, chaffage stories, making fun of ‘normals’ who partake in ridiculous behavior…ummm, jogging in jeans?! Runners can be snarky, sarcastic, and you have to be in order to get through the times when the miles are just downright painful.

That last part ties into the other side of runners. The training and racing personality, we’ll call it the ‘go time’ mentality. Here is where a runner can become stoic, intimidating, closed off from everything else. Hyping oneself up to last through lactic acid onslaught, to mentally push their body past its comfort level; so far past comfort the body screams it is in agony.

To do that, to withstand the he** that is running on legs coursing with actual poisons eating at the muscles, making them want to stop, you HAVE to be hard. There has to be a part of your brain that is able to shut out ‘sanity’ and run towards insanity.
tough runner
Runners are competitive; we thrive around those around us who are BETTER than us, who can help push ourselves past our perceived limits. Your competition is there to help you but you also want to beat them, no? When that gun goes off, runners are adept at stuffing down the ‘life’ side of themselves and slipping fully into the races. For when the gun does go off, your performance ultimately is up to you, and while there can be a team aspect, running is highly personal in that regard.

This is not cold, nor calloused; it is the truth. The best runners are able to shut out personal feelings between the start and finish line and realize it is NOT a personal slight to want to beat a friend, a training partner even, or Joe the Bag Boy. Going one step further, the best runners can then snap right BACK into ‘life’ mode the second the finish line is crossed and congratulate those around them regardless of placing.

Personally speaking, my best and favorite races are the ones where you warm-up with your friends and training partners, grind each other to be your best in the race, then cool-down together. It’s the melding of the two runner personalities.

We are people; but we are not ‘normals’. We are better, because we are runners. [Wow, does that sound elitist?! Bwahaha!]

1) What’s a common ‘life’ side of runners personality trait?

2) Do you tend to be able to shift to a more competitive side of yourself when in hard workout and race mode?

3) What is your stance on racing friends and teammates, do you agree that it’s nothing personal if you are both out to beat each other?

4) So I’m not the only runner elitist around here…lol…name one reason runners might be a little cooler than ‘normals’. And I DO have non-running friends that I think are awesome, so please, no hate mail…mmmk.

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20 Responses to The Dual Personalities of Runners: Switching from ‘life’ mode to ‘race’ mode

  1. Yes, I refresh your blog every few seconds, waiting for a new post. And this one is a cool one.
    I am totally a waver, and I curse the ‘non-wave’ back runner and automatically label them spiritually flawed. I also have a ‘race’ mode, where my more beastly thoughts come out, where the most harshest of rocking songs become my soundtrack, and during prerace time my neurosies ran rampant.

    Against the stereotype, i am a very very very slow walker. I walk slow. I’d rather do a slow run than walk, which is how it often goes. I run a lot in whatever shoes in parking lots and get lots of looks.

    • YES!! an insta-refresher, dang now i’ve got to be sure to up my game so u get excited over there. ;)
      wat, a slow walker?!?! do i have to bust out Hal from Malcom to go over there, get u a speed-walking suit and get u training?? please, if u haven’t seen that episode you HAVE to!! then report back!

      bwahwhwa…race mode, not gonna lie some of the songs that go thru my head people would never guess. :)

  2. I live in a suburb of Chicago but work in the downtown area and commute to work via train every day. It is always interesting to me to see the types of shoes that people wear on their walk to work. Some people are obviously wearing an old, retired pair of running shoes. Others, I wonder if they just picked up the first pair of gym shoes they saw at a chain store because they liked the color. I have contemplated talking to some of these folks to find out their running stories, but have not in the fear that I’ve completely misread the situation and will come off like a gigantic weirdo. Then, you have to continue to see this person on the train every day…. Awkward…

    • hahaha…yea, prolly a little awkward! but i do the foot/shoe assess of people too! and i’m right there with u, if i see an obvious running shoe i have to hold back from not asking, “so, u must be a runner, right?” ;)

  3. I loved your thoughts on this topic – I definitely find that I am friendlier than average when walking down the street, I think because it’s so ‘normal’ to smile at fellow runners or say hello when passing on an early morning run. I really like that!

    • thanks!! see, us runners are just plain friendlier. ;)

    • PS- i’m trying to leave a comment on ur blog but for some reason it won’t let me! ugh, so i wanted to say CONGRATS on the award and i’m JUST as stoked that u have another half race planned that u’re shooting for!! can’t wait to watch u kick butt in training, girl. :)

  4. Like Mark up top – I am such a slooooooooooww walker. I think I shuffle. Hmph.

    I am a huge, huge, huge smiler though. I smile at any and everyone, I just got this weird permanent smile on my face when I’m outside that no doubt freaks people out.

  5. Kim

    I think it is also amazing to see how people change when they start running. I have several friends who had complete personality changes when they became a runner!

  6. staples

    The best stint of training I ever had was with a close friend of mine on the club team at State. We just had great communication and wanted to see each other succeed. There was never any racing. We ran together almost every day. When we did long runs, we’d stay together and talk about how we felt every 20 minutes or so. If one of us felt kinda bad, we’d slow the pace down for a bit. When we did workouts, we’d take turns leading laps or intervals. Towards the end of the workout, if one of us felt better than the other, we’d agree to run however we felt on the last few.

    We were good partners because I tended to run the intervals too fast, so i’d be forced to stay under control when I ran behind him. But at the same time, i’d run some intervals a little quick and he’d stay right on me. We were opposites in style, he always wanted to go by the book and stay right on pace, while I always wanted to run splits a hair faster than planned. Together we pushed each other perfectly. Sometimes my style would work and i’d pull away, other times i’d push too hard and die towards the end and he’d overtake me. I feel like we learned a lot from each other.

    • THIS is the right kind of training partnership. when u find people like that, stick to them like glue. or til someone moves, then smuggle urself into their duffle. ;)

  7. Geez I might as well have runner tattooed to my forehead. With the exception of 8+ months pregnant I have never been able to walk at a speed any slower than flat out and I wave and say hi to everyone which YES is a habit from running!!!

    As for spotting runners – they generally have a water bottled attached to them everywhere they go during the day. Often will be wearing flats when everyone else is in heels and of course they have serious watch and sport bra tan lines. As for personality runners are totally more fun but hey who wouldn’t be more fun with a daily dose of endorphins!!!!

  8. Oh my gosh I smile at everyone all the time. Can I please blame it on the running? My students say it is weird!

  9. mmmk!

    I smile at people all the time too :-) . Runners have better stamina and resilience for hard times in everyday life. We don’t quit, we get things done – whether that’s finishing a course, saving an old friendship, finishing a project at work, or staying up all night until it gets done, we can do it. We know what it’s like to finish.

    As for being more competitive in race mode – oh my yes. I don’t race WITH friends – we start together, we cool down together, but in between,those gritted teeth are mine, and don’t even think we’re going to cross the line together – I have a race to run – against myself.

    • awesome comment! and that not quitting thing, it’s awesome how running tends to make us stubborn as heck and refuse to give up on lots of things. actually sometimes i have to force myself to LET GO of the things that really shouldn’t be taking up so much of my time. lol

  10. Pingback: Get a Runner Sick and You’ve Got He** Coming Your Way |

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