Monday, September 28, 2009

The Running World- Cult or Culture?

Being a part of Team In Training (TNT) has been a wonderful experience for me. It is a great organization full of spirit and comradery. You can easily spot a fellow TNT participant.

TNT participants are often found wearing their team shirts or caps, sporting the colors green and purple. Sometimes you’ll find them running with their names printed on their shirts. If you look closely, you can spot a tag on their shoe bearing the name, Team In Training. You may even find a badge pinned somewhere on their clothing or shoe honoring a loved one who is battling cancer. TNT participants usually greet one another with the secret (not so secret now) “handshake” by yelling, “GO TEAM!” Donning their spirited attire and shouting their cheer is one of many rituals they go through before a run.

I have a ritual that I go through a few days before an event or a long run. Two days before my run I will eat a dinner of salad and spaghetti with turkey meat sauce. The night before my run, I will rest and eat my traditional dinner of brown rice, baked chicken, and steamed broccoli. My pre-race breakfast consist of almond butter and blueberry jelly on a whole-wheat toast, banana, and an electrolyte drink. After my breakfast, I take a warm shower, apply vaseline where necessary, spray with sunscreen, warm up my muscles on a foam roller, and stretch. Every race is always the same routine.

Even if running is an individual sport, runners will follow similar rituals and have similar beliefs that they’ve established throughout their experience and the experience of others. So I am reminded that I am not alone. I’ve discovered that running is a culture in itself.

Runners are generous in their advice and like to share tips on how to run successfully and safely. Webster defines culture as the “integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.”

The funny thing is that the more I run, the more runners I meet. And the more runners I encounter, the more interesting the running culture becomes. This leads me to question the world of running. Is it a cult or is it a culture?

Webster defines cult as “a system of religious beliefs and rituals regarded as unorthodox.” Some of the behaviors I’ve witness on my runs show me how unorthodox the running world may very well be. Here is a list I’ve compiled to show you what I mean:

Acceptable Running Habits Not Acceptable Elsewhere

  • Wiping your face and nose with your shirt
  • Taking your shirt off in public
  • Running in a skirt
  • Pouring water on your head
  • Peeing wherever you can find a bush
  • Running around in your bra (women)
  • following a stranger while breathing heavily
  • carrying food in your shorts
  • digging around in your shorts for your keys
  • stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to stretch
  • running through sprinklers on purpose
  • stashing water bottles in ditches
  • running in place or stretching while waiting for the light to change at a busy intersection
  • running with nothing but shorts and a t-shirt and maybe gloves in the middle of winter

So tell me. Is it a cult or is it a culture? I admit that I do follow a few of these practices on occasion. Nevertheless, I find running fun, very rewarding, and even entertaining. You get to meet a lot of interesting people who will openly accept you as part of their community with a smile, a nod, or a raised hand as you pass by.

So come join me and together we can add to this list of acceptable and unorthodox behavior. Welcome to the runner’s world…

Happy Running!

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