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Dr. J. on Running

City Runner Country Runner

Some Subtle Differences

Published April 24, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

I finally made the transition. It took me four years and six pairs of running shoes to get there. My style, my route, my clothes, my distance, and even my attitude evolved. I passed the tests. I marked my territory. I used to be a city runner. I became a country runner.

At the risk of offending both types, let me explain the subtle, yet significant differences between city runners and country runners.

City runners wear spandex and running shoes with more flash than a Jaguar website. City runners wear clothes that match their shoes. They display a sense of "sweat-fashion." Country runners wear what fits and what covers them best through the miles. They are more likely to wear mismatched socks as long as the socks are clean and don't run on their own stored energy.

City runners sometime wear sauna pants to melt their thighs. Country runners may wear bullet-proof pants to protect from canine teeth.

City runners get out early before the neighbors let their dogs out. They rely on leash laws to protect them from unruly canines. Country runners go out whenever the dogs are in the fields hunting for woodchucks and rabbits. They depend on animal control officers to keep count of the rabid raccoon population in the neighborhood.

City runners schedule their runs around commuter traffic, lunchtime traffic, and emergency vehicle traffic. Country runners feel lucky when they find a road wide enough for both an eighteen-wheeler and themselves, or a back road where they don't have to dodge chunks of tractor-mud.

City runners avoid the exhaust of busses. Country runners try to stay upwind of spread manure, dairy farms and fresh tar.

City runners take the sidewalks when possible, or look for side streets to avoid the camber of the road. Country runners seldom find a paved road, let alone one with a wide enough shoulder.

City runners meet at bagel shops and coffee bars after a workout. They drink espresso, and rotate between flavored cream cheese and organic peanut butter. Country runners pick up fresh eggs on the way back, which they cook into a hearty feast of natural goodness.

City runners do fartlek training between lightpoles, from street corner to street corner, and between intersections. Country runners measure their fartleks by stands of hardwoods, roadkill, or the signs that mark field test rows of corn.

City runners are easy to spot in the country. They look as out of place as a donkey on city streets. They become startled at the sound of animals they never heard, or scents they never cared to smell. Country runners avoid running in the city on principle. Besides, who needs smog, fumes, trash, noise and congestion? When country runners seek a change of venue, they head for the woods to test their stamina on the trails, and face-off with city dwellers on mountain bikes.

City runners can usually find a nearby school track for their speedwork, where they compete with the basketball action nearby and dodge stray soccer balls from the infield. When country runners find a school track, they often contend with potholes in the cinder and dandelions to mark the lanes.

City runners know the location of every bathroom within a 5K radius of their home. They can count on the local gas station, the grocery store, the firehouse, the police station, the high school, or even the homes of their running buddies in case of an emergency. Country runners can depend on waist-high cornfields, overgrown bushes and deep ravines.

City runners carry small change to call home or take a bus if they get tired or injured. The more sophisticated types carry a cell phone to conduct business on the run. In the country, where phones and fawns roam alike, there is no substitute for a long walk home.

Kamal Jabbour enjoys the apparent respect that four-legged country runners, a luxury that he lacked among his former two-legged city partners. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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