A Non-Runner's Guide to Runners

A Non-Runner's Guide to Runners
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Not sure how to interact with these strange aerobic creatures? Our FAQ will help.

by Mark Remy, writer, runner and creator of Remy's World

Summer is in full swing, which means that runners are, too. Perhaps you have glimpsed them out and about, loping along paths and trails. Maybe you've even seen them in suburban settings, such as supermarkets and coffeehouses, searching for food.

But what do you really know about these shy aerobic creatures? Are they dangerous? What do they eat? How do you get rid of one that's in your house?

These questions aren't academic. As the population grows, and more and more land is developed, human-runner interactions will only increase. The following information will help prepare you.

Why do runners run?

Why do runners run? You might as well ask, "Why do birds fly?" or "Why do fish swim?" or "Why do people buy scratch-off lottery tickets?" The answer to all those questions is the same: Because it's awesome. Also, in the case of running, because maybe you can lose a few pounds.

Why do runners wear those crazy clothes?

Scientists are unsure exactly what purpose is served by the skimpy and often brightly colored gear runners wear. One theory is that it's meant to attract potential mates. Another is that it's defensive, as it makes them more visible to motorists. Some biologists believe that runners have actually evolved to prefer brighter clothing, as those wearing dull colors like "Pavement Gray" tend to not live long enough to reproduce.

Are runners dangerous?

You should never provoke them, of course. But runners by their nature are docile and will go out of their way to avoid confrontation. However, females pushing jogging strollers may attack if they feel their babies are in danger. Also, hearing certain phrases might enrage runners; among them:

• "Running will ruin your knees."

• "Marathons cause heart attacks."

• "Hey, you're a jogger, right?"

• "Jogging will ruin your knees."

Runners who hear any of these may respond forcefully. Meaning, they will go on to Facebook and post a rant that their running friends will then "Like."

What do runners eat?

Runners enjoy a varied diet, consisting of bananas, sports drinks, bagels, pizza, smoothies, beer, pasta, spareribs, chicken lo mein, muffins, scrambled eggs, sushi, ice cream, grilled shrimp skewers, black bean enchiladas, and those big turkey legs they sell at state fairs and Renaissance festivals. And that's just on their long-run days.

You might be tempted to feed runners--especially the skinny ones--but don't do it. You'll only attract more of them, and runners swarming in great numbers can be a nuisance.

What should I do if I encounter a runner who's lost and scared?

From time to time, a runner may stray from his pack and find himself in unfamiliar territory, such as a sports bar or a dinner party full of extroverts. Often, he will appear agitated, or confused.

Don't panic! Runners can sense anxiety, and it will only make a bad situation worse. Instead, approach the runner and ask about his footwear or his watch. Both will likely be running-specific. Soon he will be talking about running, nonstop, which will put him at ease. This will buy you some time while someone phones the nearest specialty running store. The store will send someone to collect the runner and return him to safety.

What if I find a runner in my house?

Especially in the hot summer months, runners may seek relief in air-conditioned homes and then panic when they can't get back out--especially once they realize that their GPS watch has lost its satellite connection. If you discover a runner stuck in your home, open a door and try to "shoo" her out with a broom. If that doesn't work, try a little trickery. Pointing outside and shouting, "Hey! Isn't that the guy who wrote "Born to Run"?" has been known to work.

How do they reproduce?

Runners practice a complex mating ritual that begins with the male donning a novelty T-shirt reading "Distance Runners Do It Longer" and ends abruptly, minutes later, with the female reminding him that they both have to be up early for a long run so they really should just "hit the hay."

In short: No one knows.

There's much more, of course. Runners are complex, fascinating creatures, and they have much to teach us. I hope that this information helps ensure that your encounters with runners--this summer and beyond--are happy and healthy ones.

Mark Remy is a writer at large for Runner's World, author of The Runner's Rule Book (Rodale, 2009), and creator of the popular Remy's World column at RunnersWorld.com. He has run 27 marathons.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com

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