After finishing a 50-miler race the other weekend, I decided to spend the next day at the beach -- recovering, naturally. I paddleboarded around for a few of hours and then retired to my towel to enjoy a rare warm and sunny fall afternoon.
I wasn't the only one taking advantage of the sunshine, though. The beach was littered with families. Young kids were running around and splashing in the bay, and families were picnicking on the sand under umbrellas. The family directly next to me had a few young kids in tow -- probably two kids between the ages of 3 and 6 along with a gangly preteen -- and while I lazed around, I couldn't help but watch them.
The charming little bobble-headed toddlers were running around in the sand, each wearing ruffled, striped bikinis and carrying pails filled with wet sand and slimy-looking plants. I was waiting for the moment they started throwing the slime at each other (and getting ready to duck under my towel to take cover) but it seemed more like a game of chase, albeit a slow one, given the weight of the sand-filled buckets and soft footing under their tiny feet.
The more I watched them, however, the more I started to notice a few similarities between them and myself the days leading up to and during my recent race... and my realization all started with a sandwich.
I watched as their mom pulled two sandwich halves out of a small cooler and started to hand them to the soggy-fingered kids. At first they both happily grabbed at the sandwich, spraying a little sand as they opened up the bread to peer inside. One of them happily took a big bite out of the sandwich while the other burst into tears over the lettuce that was touching the turkey.
The mom got up and promptly swiped the lettuce out of the sandwich and gave it back to the teary eyed toddler. She took it (still sniffling and pouting) and took a few bites before setting it down on the sand beside her and running off towards the water's edge. The other little girl, maybe a few years older, ate a bit more and then followed suit. Sandwich on sand... pail in hand... water!
I watched and laughed to myself, thinking how alike we runners truly are to toddlers. And here are my reasons, which -- of course =- began with a sandwich:
1. We avoid green things:
Before and during a race, runners will do literally anything in their power to avoid anything green. No broccoli. No asparagus. And don't even think about putting that kale anywhere near my big bowl of white carbs. And actually, you can keep all of those other vegetables to yourself. Bread? Yes and more of it, please.
2. We often discard half-eaten (perfectly good) things. (Yes, sometimes sandwiches):
During a race, its perfectly normal to see a runner take a bite or two of a peanut butter and jelly half sandwich and discard of it before taking off again on the course. Sometimes we just want a little bite of something or decide we really don't want it at all. Sometimes chewing is just too difficult or we're distracted by the hill ahead of us (just like toddlers distracted by the sand!).
3. We are unable to tie our own shoes:
During races, we often find its necessary to change our socks or remove them to take care of blisters (or prevent them!). The only problem is, we don't like to waste our time removing our shoes or putting them back on. The solution is to have someone in your crew (or a doting spouse, perhaps) get your shoes on and off while we stuff our faces with half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
4. We can't always wait to go potty in the bathroom:
Runners may always use a proper restroom in their real lives, but the minute we're racing? All bets are off. We often have to go on the trail or somewhere out on the course -- and don't see any need to apologize for it. People around? Doesn't matter. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
5. We'll wear a cape, tutu, or sparkly things because we feel like it:
No need for Halloween! Just like toddlers, you can find runners dressed up as superheroes, running in capes, or sparkly tutus just because they feel like it. And if anyone asks -- yes, they do give you super powers.
Runners, like toddlers can be both peculiar and charming. We often lack table manners, can cry at any given moment and need help with the most basic tasks. You know what else is funny? The fact that we will also drop everything to smile and run for something shiny.
Oh, a medal? I'll tackle anything in my path for that!