Who are these people? It might be impossible to really know them. Perhaps they use stereotypes to hide their innermost emotions. Perhaps the 70-something gentleman playing the part of “Old Man Wearing Shorts with No Liner” is actually hiding his soul by exposing so much more.
But now we’re getting too deep. Instead, we’ll round up the most recognizable characters who happen to be present at every race–and observe them in their natural habitats.
Crazy Warm-Up Guy1 of 16
He's at the start line 20 minutes before the gun sounds, going through a series of elaborate jumps, kicks and stretches. Once he's completed about seventy high knees, he does a light jog about 100 meters from the start, turns around and busts out a full-throttle sprint that would make most of us regular folks throw up. He repeats this several more times, then drops to the cold, hard ground and starts in with his push-ups. Please do not get in his way or trip over him. He is a professional.
Chatty Kathy2 of 16
This is the woman who shows up at the start line ready to tell her life story. Generally, she rambles on to a friend about their cousin's daughter's neighbor who just got married and the fiasco of a fight that happened at the open bar. But, if the chatterbox is alone, she will speak to you--so eyes down! Don't get her started. Anyway, the wedding story lasts through the national anthem (despite glances from polite individuals who wouldn't dare cut her off) and well into the first mile of the race, even though the person she was talking to is actively trying to outpace her. As the race goes on, the story gets more broken up by her ragged breaths, but she is not dissuaded. No, she continues to talk.
Cross Country Bros3 of 16
The local high school coach likes for his team to practice out on the open road against us mere mortals. These guys are not only vying for places one through five, they are also competing to see who can wear the least amount of shorts and most amount of socks.
"I'm Just Using This as My Training Run" Girl4 of 16
At the start, she's gleeful and not at all nervous. She looks around at the runners by her sides and nods excitedly. "Oh, I wouldn't normally line up alllll the way back here," she says, flipping her hair. "But I'm not really racing today. This will just be my tempo, and then I'm going to get in another seven." Well, thanks so much for your thoughts on our race pace. Next time, just call us slow.
CrossFitters on the Loose5 of 16
Be careful, as this is a new breed at road races. They might've been runners in a past life, but these beasts traded their running shoes for a pull-up bar. Now they rip off their shirts, flex their large biceps and claim their pre-workout can charge them up enough to beat you to the finish, bro. Their run might resemble more of a waddle, on account of their large quads, but do not underestimate their speed, competitiveness or fitness. And do not let them beat you--you'll never hear the end of it.
The Stroller Parent6 of 16
Always lined up in the front of the pack, always wreaking havoc.
The Kid7 of 16
Eventually, the stroller parent has to let the kid out of its container. When that happens, you'll see that the little tyke has grown up into his own version of race participant. As a 5-year-old, he's one part adorable and seven parts annoying as he charges ahead of you, then stops, doubled over and gasping for air. He continues this run-die-walk pattern for the entire race as you saunter along beside him. He will inevitably pass you in the finishing stretch.
Inspector Gadget8 of 16
This runner is literally wearing a monitor for everything. Heart rate band? Check. GPS watch? Check. Pedometer, wireless headphones, built-in robot coach? Check, check, check. We don't know how she has enough outlets in her home to charge all these things, nor do we know how she affords her electricity bill, but we're happy she feels happy knowing all these numbers.
Hydro-pack and Fuel Belt Man9 of 16
Most likely Inspector Gadget's significant other, this person is geared up like he's about to run an ultra. Maybe he didn't notice that it's just a 5K?
Heavy Breathing Person10 of 16
As you round the turn at the two-mile mark, you hear a monstrous noise. It's a wet, raspy, disgusting inhale, followed by a hot, gruesome cough of an exhale. Has the zombie apocalypse finally arrived? You know that if you don't speed up, you will have to suffer through this undead sound for the rest of the race. You're not sure why nobody has taught this runner the right way to breathe, but now you're stuck with that dreaded noise. And you Must. Get. Away.
Annoyingly Adorable Running Couple11 of 16
Between pep talks and high fives, these two lovebirds are talking about the next run-cation they want to take. Get a room.
The "This is My Olympics" Guy12 of 16
You saw him last week when you were spectating the local 10K, and again two weeks ago at the neighboring town's 5K, standing up front with laser-eyed focus. He's run every race in the past three months, and if he doesn't win, he will throw his age group award at your head. He's not just competing for a plastic trophy and gift card to the local tractor supply store, he's competing for dignity.
Sweatsuit Man13 of 16
It's hot, but this guy thinks the race is an audition for the next "Rocky" movie. He's pulled out his gray, cotton sweatsuit from a box marked 1976, and even though the name implies that he will be sweating while wearing it, he wears look of surprised agony as the pit stains inevitably seep forth.
Overenthusiastic Cheerleader14 of 16
Who is that idiot who has to announce every mile marker? We can see it, too. We know we have one mile to go. We don't need your patronizing shouts telling us to "run faster" or "keep going!" Did you think we were going to just stop and sit down right here in the middle of the road?
Creepy Runner Judging the Crowd15 of 16
Oh, that's us.