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The Running World- Cult or Culture?

Posted by Running-Girl on May 3, 2008 6:03:44 PM

Being a part of Team In Training (TNT) has been a great experience for me. The participants of TNT have a commonality- 1) to impact our own lives by training for an endurance sport, and 2) to impact the lives of others by helping to raise money to fight cancer. TNT is a wonderful organization full of spirit and comradery. Being a part of TNT makes me look forward to my runs and my training. I enjoy running with my fellow teammates.


You can often spot a fellow TNT participant. You'll find them in their team shirts or caps. 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. It's not uncommon for TNTers to sport the colors green and purple together, which most fashion afficionados would shun. TNT participants usually can recognize each other. Our secret handshake "GO TEAM!" (well, not so secret now), is often exchanged as we pass by each other. The secret handshake is one of many rituals we go through.


I have this ritual that I go through a week before an event or a long run. For five days prior to my event, I would eat a healthy serving of fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish and grains. I make sure my stomach is satisfied at each meal. I make sure I eat 3 full meals a day with 2 satisfying snacks in-between. Two days before my run, I will eat a dinner of spaghetti with turkey meat sauce. The night before my run, I will eat my traditional dinner of brown rice, baked chicken, steamed green beans or broccoli. My morning breakfast, an hour before my run, will consist of an almond butter and acai or blueberry jelly on whole-wheat toast, banana, and an electrolyte drink. My water pack is layed out and prepared with an electrolyte drink (GU2O or Cytomax), Shot Blocks, tissue, a band-aid, cell phone, and ID. In my after-run bag, I carry extra clothing and socks, towel, water, and a protein bar. My dry-fit clothing and cap will change each time, but one thing remains the same. I will always wear my double layered, blister-free sock! Sounds crazy? I know.



I sometimes find it disturbing that I go through this ordeal for a run. However, even if running is an individual sport, we, runners, pretty much follow similar rituals and have similar beliefs and that we've established through our own experience and through experiences of others. So I am reminded that I am not alone. I've discovered that running is a culture in itself.



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." We runners like to share tips and advice on how to improve our runs, run successfully, and to run safely. And that's what we do at TNT.



The funny thing is that the more I run, the more runners I encounter, and the more interesting the running culture has become. It 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 be. Here is a list I've compiled to show you what I mean:





  • wiping your face and nose with your shirt

  • taking your shirt off in public

  • pouring water on your head

  • peeing wherever you can find a bush

  • running around in your bra (women)

  • following the person of the opposite sex 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 in 3-mile increments

  • running in place 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? Because I am an active part of it, I'd like to vote for the latter. Yes, I admit that I may follow a few of these practices. Okay, tease me. Nevertheless, I find running fun and very rewarding. 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!


~ running-girl






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