R: "How long have you been running?"
R: "Do you have any races coming up?"
Me: (panting) "No."
Other ways I know I am not yet a Runner is that I don't have that watch that beeps, I never know what mile we are on, and headlamps, I don't have one, though every time it is dark, I lurk creepily behind someone who is wearing one so I can see where I am going. Or else practice running in the dark. Is that a raccoon or a giant pot hole? Ouch. Not a raccoon. Also, reflective gear, like those criss-cross yellow blinking Safety Patrol belts. And those water bottles that strap to your hand. Or your back. Also, special sneakers. Or proper clothing.
There are too many signs to keep listing. The fact that if it is 10 degrees with a windchill of -15, you could not pay me to even contemplate the joy of Running. "You just need the right clothing," one Runner stated, when I explained my 4 month absence from November through March. This is where silence is useful, because I really like hot drinks, listening to the wind howl outside my window, and feeling generally glad to be out of the elements. No amount of Under Armour is going to change that.
Another tell-tale sign is that I don't understand a 50K. I don't admire or mock it. I just don't get it. I've spent a little bit of time wondering what makes us gravitate toward intentional pain and suffering, with little pay off, and I think that in lieu of living in dangerous environments, we seek out a bit of anguish and physical harm. And wear beeping watches and blinking lights to help us achieve this goal.
All of these things demonstrate what makes one a R, which is a commitment to something, an attention to the details that maximize the experience, and a goal-focused way of making sure that you are growing in an area that you value. It's very teaching.
If you don't have any races coming up and you can't breathe, it makes conversation after the run much more fluid and manageable.
And sometimes pretty funny.
Because I gravitate toward others who are similarly unprepared but keep showing up.
In one such recent conversation, I was "hydrating" (which is a Runner's word for drinking water) and talking to a man and a woman. The woman was mentioning a yoga class that she goes to, and how she feels bad for always being late.
"It's like, all peaceful in there and I try to sneak in without being loud but then I'll bump someone or drop my mat and interrupt everything."
I nod my head in sympathy.
The man is quiet, no nodding. Then he says, "I like to get there 15 minutes early." I nod, again, in sympathy. Too early, too late. Both can be difficult qualities to embody.
"And," he say, "get my things all lined up. My mat the way I like it, my waterbottle and my blocks and the band," he is physically lining them up with his hands. It's all organized in his chosen corner and then I imagine this woman tripping over him as she enters the room 30 minutes later. He tells a tale about a woman who always arrives ahead of him to get the exact same spot in the class, every single time. This intrigues me the way someone doing a 50K intrigues me.
"What would happen if someone took her spot?" I ask.
He thinks it wouldn't be good.
"Have you ever tried?"
"Oh, I wouldn't," he says.
I would. Just to see. This is probably why it's good I don't go to yoga classes.
The yoga conversation continues, and it gets funnier and funnier. I ask a question and immediately regret it. I don't know where the question comes from.
"What kind of yoga class is it?" This is my question. As soon as I ask, I realize:
1. She could make up a name and I wouldn't know the difference
2. I know there are different kinds of yoga, but I don't know what they are, so I'm not sure why I am asking this.
But no question is ever wasted, because she knows as much as I do, but now the man is trying to guess which kind it is.
He asks if it is the fast breathing yoga.
"I don't think so," she says, looking like she is playing out the last class in memory to look for any fast breathing. "You mean, like, deep breathing?"
No. He means fast breathing. He demonstrates. And what he demonstrates is very familiar. I recall learning it in a natural child birthing class. He's showing the part of breathing you do during a contraction.
"Are you sure you were in a yoga class?" I ask. "That sounds like Lamaze."
"No, it was yoga," he says.
"Because I can see how you might accidentally enter a Lamaze class and it would be similar to yoga, and the instructor would be pretty laid-back and accepting and would see you practicing labor breathing and would just, you know, encourage you, thinking, 'Well, to each their own.' "
"It was yoga," he says.
She's not sure the kind of yoga class it is, and so he is guessing: lots of poses? Fast flowing? I think of all the information about yoga that has been deposited into my brain by people who say You have to try it and then tell me how they go to rooms where it is 150 degrees and just sweat. There are the cold Under Armour Runners and the Hot Yoga breathers and the man who is guessing what kind of yoga this woman does says something like, "It roots your soul. Does she say that in class?"
"Yes!" the woman says.
And then they are exchanging the many times that soul is referenced during their 60 minute workout class. "Like, 'Feel your soul flow,' and 'Now s-t-r-e-t-c-h your soul!'"
I am getting the sense that there are Runners, and those who run, and there are Yogis, and those who do drop in classes. And the drop-ins don't know why the soul is referenced just as those who run don't have any races lined up. Yet.
Somewhere in this
I hadn't, but said that that's a funny idea.
"No, it's real. These pens made for women, by Bic. It's called Bic for Her."
Without further ado, fast breathing, or upcoming races, I bring to you, Bic. For Her