They say that if you run far enough, something is bound to happen. This is very true and perhaps one of the most interesting, entertaining and sometimes disturbing things that happens is that we lose touch with social convention. We very quickly begin to accept behaviours that would otherwise be unacceptable in everyday life. Regardless of how conservative the person is, it is fascinating to observe how quickly they can morph into a primitive savage.
What follows are 4 examples of what I call Running Induced De-Evolution of the Human Condition:
1. You are on a loooong out and back run late one night and after exhausting all the snacks you carried with you, you stop into a service station to resupply. Knowing full well you aren’t carrying any money, you stare into the pie warmer pretending to decide which pastry treat you will purchase. Waiting for the moment where the attendant is looking elsewhere, you grab a small handful of tomato sauce sachets and head for the door. Plodding off down the road, you convince yourself that the caloric density of the tomato sauce is the perfect fuel for you right now and consider yourself an ‘Urban Bear Grills’ as you slightly gag on the tiny saucy gels.
2. Regular support crew members will know this one – Support crew are often required to leap frog their runner to a check point, provide vital nutrition, gear and moral support then pack up and move on to the next point and repeat the process. Sometimes for hours and hours OR days at time. A good and appreciative runner will come into the check point with a smile, manners and an obvious display of gratitude for his or her crew. In reality however, most runners may start like this, but it isn’t long before any manners, patience or even basic human concern for their crew is offered up. I’ve seen runners fly into a check point, scream “Gels! I need gels! Change this water bottle! Empty those pockets and refill with half jelly babies and half dried apricots! NO NO I told you half jelly babies and half dried apricots; that’s too many apricots!! What are trying to do to me?!?”
At this point and in any other situation, the support crew which consists generally of volunteer family and friends would be well within their rights to down tools and walk off the job. Lucky for the runner, there is usually someone in the crew that has either been that runner at some point or at least been exposed to the illogical and anti-social behaviour of an ultra-runner when their blood sugars are low and their brain stops functioning properly. So support crews, often require just as much mental fortitude as the runner. ***My tip is to do everything you can to avoid being the obnoxious runner. Good support crews are hard to come by. Look after yours***
3. Toileting is always a hot topic on long runs, particularly trail runs which can take you to very remote places. A well prepared runner will always carry some toilet paper in their pack and be “Ready For Action” should be need arise. When the need does arise, the conscientious runner will stray off the trail, downhill from the trail itself so as to avoid any down wash of you know what onto the trail if it were to rain, dig a small hole and bury you know what. This scenario may take place in the early stages of a race, but as time and distance increase, within the runner’s mind the need to do the right thing reduces to the point where anything is acceptable. I’ve seen unprepared runners with no toilet paper use leaves, which of course is the sensible thing to do… except when the closest thing to leaves in the area are dry bracken ferns (which would feel like brittle barbed wire if applied in the manner required for this task). I’ve seen runners lack enough confidence in their fatigued legs to negotiate the bushes on the side of the trail that they just dropped their pants one step to the left of the centre of the trail… Such is the mindset of the emergency bowel evacuating runner who has reached the limit of their “I’ll just hold on till the checkpoint” ability.
At a certain point, toilet paper becomes a “nice to have” item instead of a necessity. Some runners have been known to skip the leaves and go for empty gel packets, their own underwear (probably due to a premature evacuation) and even their socks.
4. Perhaps the funniest thing about running induced de-evolution of the human condition is what the runner can justify as NOT NEEDING, when the option of finishing or DNF’ing is presented to them.
Here are some examples of what may be deemed optional:
1.Both shoes – lost one somehow…
2.Pants – had an accident…
3.Ability to eat – threw up all contents of stomach and perhaps the stomach itself (or so it feels)…
4.A functioning calf muscle – there is only 70kms to go, hopping is like running. Right?
5.Vision – running by brail.
6.Consciousness – 44hrs of running without a rest will make you a little sleepy.
7.A map – without 5 and 6, 7 just seems silly.
Maybe this de-evolution is not that at all. Maybe the stripped back, raw state the runner gets themselves into is actually the human spirit in its purest form???