Why Running Cults Are The Best Cults

One of my staunchly anti-running friends went for a run last night. It’s possible I got way more excited about this than is reasonable. I mean, it’s not like she ran with me or offered to pace me at my next ultra. (I probably don’t get to say things like “next ultra” until I’ve run a first ultra, huh? Meh. I’m grown. I do what I wanna.)

Still, it’s oddly exciting to runners when anti-runners become runners. (If she reads this, she’ll probably deny being a runner. But she ran. So, she’s a runner. It’s a law.)

(Plus, she bought a pair of Saucony. So, not only is she a runner, she’s the best kind of runner.)

The only way I can explain this is that we are a cult. A freakishly healthy and unreasonably happy cult. As cults go, we’re the one you wanna join.

We’re incredibly supportive. We’re pretty loose on the hygiene rules. (I suppose this could be seen as a drawback, but for us curly-headed chicks, it’s a definite plus. Daily hair maintenance is exhausting. My runner cult is fully supportive of my liberal use of hair buppies versus actual hair styling.) We’re non-judgmental about poor decisions. In fact, we encourage those, so long as they involve risk of bodily harm and public embarrassment and do not come at the expense of other lifeforms. We’re open to body function discussions. Most of us are, anyway. I learned last night that, that may not be a universal runner truth. Apparently some of us get uncomfortable when the rest of us excitedly discuss bowel movements or the unfortunate outcome when running tights start rubbing too much. (Seriously. This is an issue.) Odd. Still, we’re a very accepting and upbeat group.

(It occurs to me now that I should explain what a hair buppy is for non-curly headed long-haired peeps. Hair buppies are basically hair ties that are far more durable than a standard hair tie to avoid sudden snapping when tasked with containing ridiculously uncontrollable hair. They’re basically the difference between trail shoes and road shoes. They grip better. Of course, you still have to double up to secure your hair and they will stretch out to an unusable form after 7.8 uses. But if you’ve got curly hair, you want hair buppies rather than simple hair ties.)

Back to my runner cult.

Do you know that excited feeling you get when you discover you have some sort of shared interest or experience with someone? Like, that whole “you, too??” feeling? I think there’s some sort of basic biological reason for why it feels so awesome to experience that. I could probably explain it better if I’d paid more attention in Anthropology or Physiological Psych class in undergrad. But I was busy creating other kinds of shared experiences back then that negatively impacted my ability to retain information. (Another reason why college straight out of high school is not always a solid plan. But that’s another topic for another blog.)

I get that shared experience feeling ALL OF THE TIME with these people. Running with the Shine Runners last night (like, they named an entire pub run group after me – how cool is that?), there was that mutual anticipation of Blue Ridge coming in a few weeks. It feels amazing to be surrounded by people that are so eager to take on the same challenges that you are.

Really, if you want your kids to be better prepared to manage the challenges they will inevitably face, help them find their own running cult to join. (If it makes you feel more comfortable, we can call it a tribe or a group. I prefer tribe. It feels more empowering. But group is cool, too. We can call it that.) If you’ve got young kids, you can do this through groups like Girls on the Run and Let Me Run. Start them young and they’ll take on the world without hesitation.

It’s just the best way I’ve found to manage the crap storm that life can become. It doesn’t seem to matter how ugly the world has been over the last week. When I’m running with my people, life is good. And I’m better prepared to manage the ugly for the next day or two. 

And I got a sweet new glass with my name on it just for showing up and being acknowledged by another human.


I’m pretty sure at some point I agreed to do some crazy challenging ultras out west next year. I’m not sure which ones. I wasn’t really focused on the details. I basically heard, “Next year, let’s do …” and I was in. I’ll figure out the details later. For now, I’ve got a Spartan tomorrow, so it’s just about time to figure out where it’s at and what time I have to leave.

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