Personal Musings

Why Do We Make Running Essays So Dang Boring?

A guilty pleasure of mine is reading running essays. Too often I find my appetite isn’t satiated by the end of the story. There’s too much emphasis on mechanics and results and less on the personal perspective within running. The writer makes running sound like, well, exercise — and I firmly stand against making exercise sound like exercise, unless your purpose is to make swaths of people avoid it at all costs. Why do we make running essays so dang boring? Show me the funny.

Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.

Mark Twain, A Biography

I think of humor like salt and pepper when it comes to writing. Too much ruins the dish. Too little leads to a bland palate. I’m guilty of both. Though my preference would be to dump more salt and pepper than needed if given the choice.

When I read, I don’t expect every word to be chock full of humor. Super duper serious topics aside, somewhere within the paragraphs before the essay ends, I’d like a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

I find road running a touch monotonous for my tastes. That’s why I hit the trails and stamp and stomp and slide through mud and threaten my ankles on exposed tree roots each day. In the spring and summer, I like to barrel through a bend only to find a horde of angry yellow jackets feasting on a small animal carcass that give me chase because I spooked them during their gourmet meal. Talk about setting a new PR. Trail running is like being a gigantic child playing in the woods again.

But even writing about road running doesn’t have to be no holds bar boring. Say you’re writing about how to layer yourself for cold weather running. Stick to the script and that’s going to be one snooze fest of a read. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper of humor and personal experience and the essay is a different beast altogether. For example, wearing the proper layers are essential for cold weather running. Mess up a layer and you’ve got:

The Tale of the Chafed Nipples: How to Properly Base Layer for Winter Running

Every runner on Planet Earth has experienced chafed nipples before. I screwed up and wore a brand new t-shirt I thought would be a solid base layer the other day. I was wrong. My nipples felt like a woodworker had practically sanded them down to nubs for 45 minutes by the time I finished my route. I couldn’t wait to get home to put a cool cloth on those bad boys then curse myself for not having aloe vera handy. Oh, wait, I own a plant. Hindsight is 20/20.

Do you know the real reason you shouldn’t wear cotton socks to run in? It’s not to minimize blisters. That’s what most running essays tell you. I mean that’s part of it. It’s because merino wool socks are more expensive and the publication’s affiliate links make mad bank if you click on their link and purchase a pair as opposed to swinging by Target and picking up a 12-pack of cotton socks like your dad and grandpa wore for decades. Sorry, wrong topic.

No, the reason you should wear merino wool socks when you run is because they don’t hold onto funk quite like a pair of crusty cotton socks do before you get them in the wash. The essay should be titled:

The Reason You Should Buy Merino Wool Running Socks Is Because Your Feet Smell Like a Leaky Dumpster — You Know It’s True

Runners have notoriously stank running shoes and socks. I’m an outlier here. You can ask my wife. I have the world’s freshest smelling feet regardless of physical activity. I can wear the same socks for five straight days and nada — no stink. For my feet to become foul, I pretty much would have to lower my tootsies down into a construction site port-a-john toilet and let them stew for days to have atrocious smelling dogs.

Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be a dominant gene and thus I didn’t pass down this blessing to my children. They received my wife’s feet and my anxious DNA.

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Every year manufacturers put out a new model of last year’s new and improved shoe — only this year the shoe is even newer and more improved. It’s got the latest tech, is lighter, more breathable, and the MSRP is $130 plus. Heck, a large share of running shoes now cost more than a pair of Jordans. What’s worse is if you’re a runner you already know the lifespan of said shoe is going to last you three to four months tops before you wear it all to hell racking up hundreds of miles.

I never buy the latest model of shoe when it comes out. But because so many running blogs and publications are built on affiliate marketing, their writing is written to sway you into thinking newer is better. It’s dishonest.

I’d love to read a running essay that finds the absurdity in the cost of new running shoes titled:

This Year’s New Running Shoe Is Sleeker, Faster, and Lighter and Also Crazy Ass Expensive. Save Your Money and Buy the 2021 Version Which Is On Sale for $69.99

You have my attention and I may even click on your affiliate link to support your publication because:

  1. You’re being honest
  2. You know they screw up half the new models anyway by tweaking some of the best specs from last year’s shoe

There are writers out there who write about running in a funny way. Recently I found the satirical running blog Dumb Runner. I’ve laughed out loud (or LOL as the kids once said who are now 35 and above) reading short essays on this site the last few days. The first post of 2024 is Local Runner Kicks Off 2024 With First Injury of the Year.

And you’ve got guys like Brendan Leonard at Semi-Rad who hit my funny bone time and again. Read I Just Want Strava To Tell Me I’m Not Slowly Dying. But as a runner, reader, and writer, what I’d like to see is larger publications infuse humor more often than not in their essays.

Writing about running doesn’t have to be so damn serious. Embrace the grit of the adventure. But embrace the funny side of it, too.

As America’s great humorist once said:

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations, and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.

Mark Twain, What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us

You may also like: When Geese Attack, or How I Almost Got My Ass Kicked by a Canadian Goose

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