Running Personalities: A Glossary

Last Saturday I got to be part of one of Vermont’s most entertaining long-distance road races, the 100 on 100 Relay. Beside being an occasion to band together with five companions and cover 100 miles along VT Route 100 in a day, the race offers a full day of opportunities to sight-see. I’m not just talking about the scenery, although the course does pass through many a lush cattle-strewn pasture, gazeboed town square, and quaint covered bridge. What I really mean is that there is no better opportunity to observe an endless parade of runners in all shapes, sizes, abilities, and outfits make their way from the starting line at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe to the grand buffet at Okemo Mountain Resort.

I was 1/6 of team Run-GMC, a very enthusiastic group of current and former Green Mountain Club employees. Although we all consider ourselves runners, several of my teammates spend most of their summer hours in the woods, chainsawing trees and building trail features instead of training all the time. Although I knew the group looked sort of rugged, I didn’t realize how much we stood out from the crowd until I overheard this conversation behind me as my teammate Sam strode towards the finish of one of his legs:

“Hey, there goes Casual Guy.”

“Have you seen the rest of his group? They’re ALL heavily bearded! And someone’s running in hiking shorts.”

While this wasn’t entirely true, I mused as I stroked my naked chin, the observation made me realize that the running community is about as diverse as the bagel varieties we consumed that day. That’s when I really began to notice the different types of people wearing race bibs. Here’s how I break it down:

The Barefoot Runners bear expressions of either (a) pain, (b) superiority, or (c) both.

The Casual Guys look like they just woke up and said, “I think I’ll compete in a race today.” Their footwear is busted, their clothing is neither performance-wick nor ultralight, and they appear bemused by the sight of so many people running who are not being chased.

The Ethereal Creatures stare dreamily at a fixed point ahead of them while they race, appear to float rather than run, and bear motivational tattoos such as, “Pain is temporary, but pride lasts forever.”

The Heavy Stepper is ALWAYS right behind you.

Just steer clear of the Heavy Sweater. You won’t regret it, I promise. (Incidentally, this person may be me.)

The Robo-Trons arrive fully decked out in racing gear from their wrap-around sunglasses and aerodynamic reflective vests to their pacer watches and neon stability shoes. Their iPhones are programmed to remind them to hydrate.

Those of us who are not Speed Demons can only observe these runners on an out-and-back race course. Glance up when you’re about a quarter of the way to the turnaround point to watch them stride by en route to the finish. They might have been raised by cheetahs.

The Tuck-and-Rollers dip, dodge, duck, and dive their way through a pack of runners to get to the front. Give them an inch, and then fight hard not to trip over them for the rest of the race.

The Tweety-Birds travel in a pack and engage in nonstop chatter about everything and nothing. If you can’t beat them, you should probably join them.

So whether you are a barefoot heavy-stepper or a Tweety-bird tuck-and-roll speed-demon, there is a place for you in the running community. Hope to see (or smell) you at the next race!

Mari Zagarins

When Mari isn't running, biking, hiking, or jumping-jacking in and around her home in Montpelier, she is practicing her facial expressions in the mirror and contemplating whether she should learn to swim.