Last year there was an article in Runners World magazine where the author said he could tell he had become a runner by the piles of sweaty running clothes waiting to be washed. According to him, all runners have piles of dirty running clothes. Yes, I have lots of running clothes either waiting to hit the washer or hanging to dry (you never put running clothes in the dryer) but I think that there are some other indicators that I am a runner.
It all starts with the shoes. Runners are picky about their shoes and when we find a pair that works, we stick with them. When I started running, I found that Sauconys Pro Grid Trigon Ride 5 were the most comfortable for me. One of the problems is that shoe manufacturers will change the shoe designs periodically. A shoe that fits great now may not be so wonderful when it gets tweaked to the new design. Many runners will stock up when they hear that a shoe is being discontinued. I learned this and started hoarding the Sauconys that I loved. Eventually I ran out of my stock pile and had to find a new shoe. I was fortunate because eventually the shoe design morphed back into one I could wear happily again. I gave up the hoarding though. It takes up too much space in my closet.
I put about 300 miles on a pair of shoes before I replace them (I keep a spreadsheet to track the number of miles on each pair). When a pair is getting near the end of their life, I will start breaking in a new pair. At any time I have two or more pairs of the same looking shoes floating around in my closet. I number each pair on the soles so I can tell the old pairs from the new pairs. One time I was in a hurry to pack for a trip and in the dim light of my closet, I grabbed the left from the #10 pair and the right from the #12 pair. It was not until I reached my destination that I noticed I had packed an unmatched pair. I had to laugh at myself. Yes, I would say that the shoes are an indicator that I am a runner.
When you enter a race, even a 5k, they will give you a shirt. In the past, the shirts were usually cotton t-shirts. Most races now will give you a technical shirt made from sweat wicking material. At first I thought this was really cool because I didn’t own any technical shirts and was constantly washing the few I had. I have run so many races now that I have more shirts than I know what to do with. One of the local race organizers gives runners the choice of getting a $10 coupon to a running store in lieu of a shirt. I take that option now whenever I enter one of their races. Despite that, I still have more shirts than I can stuff into my dresser drawers. The overflowing shirt drawer is another indicator that I am a runner.
For me, the number one indicator that I am a runner is the number of running socks I own. Every runner has their own race rituals. It could be anything from laying out all their running clothes the night before to a special breakfast that they eat race day. There are also things that runners never do before a race. The biggie is on race day runners never eat anything new or wear anything new. Despite that rule, I always wear a brand new pair of Balega socks. There is something about putting on a new pair of socks on race morning that energizes me. They are more cushiony and soft. My feet need that kind of comfort right before I put them through 13+ or 26+ miles of work. I even wear new socks for shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks. The $10 coupons that I get instead of t-shirts help pay for my “new socks” race ritual. At the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon in Boston, all the runners got a free pair of Balega socks. I was delighted.
I have accumulated a lot of socks since I started running. In one year, I ran 24 races so that was 24 new pairs of Balega socks. To help me match them up after they come out of the wash, I started to put a code for each race on the toe of each sock with an indelible marker, such as “HH” for Historic Half, and “MCM” for the Marine Corps Marathon. The Dopey Challenge, which consists of a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon, made the sock marking more difficult so I just resorted to A, B, C and D to distinguish each race’s socks. Unfortunately, the marks don’t last and over time get blurry. I have a couple different styles of Balega socks, which helps with the matching process. Despite marking them and buying different styles, I am fairly confident that I frequently wear mismatched socks.
How about you? What tells you that you are a runner?