“so…ummm,” Lyndsay starts as we begin a weekend long run.
“I lost a toe nail yesterday”, she brags.
“Congratulations!” Karen hands out accolades.
“Good for you.” I add.
“Yeah, I’m hard core now. It turned black a long time ago and has just been hanging on. Then, yesterday, when I was cutting my toe nails I realized it wasn’t really attached to anything and it just came off.”
Now to normal people (aka non-runners) this may seem like a rather strange conversation, however, to women that run, this is nothing unusual. We don’t even bat an eyelash which got me thinking. Women who run may look like normal people when you encounter them at work or in the grocery store, but put a pair of Asics on their feet and a Garmin on their wrist and they turn into women with the heart of a cheetah and the strength of an amazon dweller. So, today, I thought I’d do my civic duty and, in a gesture of charity, offer a personally annotated public service announcement to anyone who might be interested in dating, marrying or just befriending a women who runs and give you the inside scoop into the psyche of a ‘sole sister’.
Article 1 – Food
Although sole sisters sometimes look like they eat like a bird, they can actually eat an entire bird in one sitting--a pterodactyl or albatross. Most sole sisters can--and do--eat the equivalent of their own body weight within a 24 hour period. I know because I’ve done it. And, they can do it with the voracity and speed of King Kong popping back the entire population of New York City. Don’t be deceived by slim figures or slight frames. It is simply a façade. Food is their life and if you get between a sole sister and pre-race regiment meal, watch out.
Personal Note: Yesterday I secretly ate supper before my family got home. Then, we ate supper together (again for me). And, later, I had seconds---well, thirds but who’s counting. If that wasn’t enough, I still woke up from hunger at 2:00 am and found myself down stairs in the kitchen with my finger in the peanut better jar. I sometimes wonder if third world nations would be better off if I didn’t run.
There is an irony with sole sisters that is not worth questioning. In the month or so before a marathon, she will stay away from overly processed foods such as desserts and simple sugars, however, will then go on a long run and consumer 3 or 4 packets of pure glucose. This may not make sense to you, but I strongly suggest you don’t go there. This is one argument that won’t end sweetly.
Article 2 – Feet
Sole sisters’ feet are horrible. We have bunions, rotten toe nails, athlete’s foot, calluses, and cracked heels…and we don’t care. In the summer we simply wear closed toed sandals or paint our toe nails (or the skin where there should be toe nails) with very thick nail polish and hope no one is the wiser.
Article 3 – Weekends
The only slow and long thing a sole sister wants on the weekend is a run, usually upwards of 20 odd kilometers. Deal with it.
Article 4 – Holidays
Sole sisters love spending time with their loved one at the movies, on holidays, going out to dinner or just snuggling up at home to watch TV—as long as it doesn’t interfere with the training schedule. All trips, vacations, birthday celebrations, anniversaries, births and funerals (well, not really funerals, but births for sure. Some of us are still trying to come to terms with Denise's 'I'm having another baby' stunt) must first be checked against the race schedule before they can be cleared. I have actually heard, “Well, we can’t go on the cruise that week because it is 2 weeks before the marathon…”
Article 5 – Demeanour
Generally, during non-running moments sole sisters are professional, upstanding citizens. Don’t be deceived by the cute little running skirts, or girly running tops. In certain running situations these women can swear like pirates pillaging an innocent wayfaring ship. Some of these conditions include but are not limited to:
1. Bad drivers. Near misses with idiots behind the wheel who have no respect for running.
2. On long runs when the battery dies on:
i. The ipod
ii. The Garmin
iii. Cell phone
3. If she runs out of water, gel or if there are no washrooms en route.
4. Any point in a race past the 32 km mark. No real reason required. All sorts of anger issues spontaneously surface. Note: Not a good time to propose marriage. Just saying.
Article 5 – Clothing
A sole sister will drive to Buffalo to save $50 on a pair of running shoes. She will salivate at the very utterance of “Lululemon” and would rather spend $100 on a new pair of running tights than a new dress…or at least she’d get more wear out of the tights. She most likely has her own drying rack for running gear and will not speak to you for a week if you put any of her running clothes in the dryer. She probably owns a pair of lucky socks. She actually wears running jewellery with pendants that are stamped with “26.2” or some such thing. If you really want to impress her—forget roses—think sports bra.
Article 6 – Digestive issues
Sole sisters often have digestive issues and they are willing to talk about them—with almost anybody. Don’t be offended or surprised. It is just a fact of running life and they think should understand. Post-race upset stomachs, or pre-race nerves, we need to share.
I hope this has given you insight into the running woman’s mind. As I am writing this, I am actually wearing a t-shirt kindly given to me from my friend Karen. On the front it says, “Sole Sisterhood” and on the back is says, “Friends to the Finish”. That just about sums it up really. If you can embrace that this is exactly what embodies a woman who runs, you can grow to love her! If not, I suggest you take up running—and head in the other direction.