“When we were young, the best running skill was being able to run up the slide”

Last week I participated in the marathon-running-themed Twitter chat, #BQChat. One of my responses had to do with long runs and my ability to do some of my best thinking on long runs. I had to clarify that this isn’t “Nobel Prize” type thinking I do, it’s new blog ideas, what I’m going to eat later, those kinds of important thoughts.

During my long run yesterday, I started thinking about all the random things I’ve learned how to do or gotten really good at by being a distance runner. Not like endurance, recovery stretches, those types of things – the things that are less directly related to running; skills that can come in handy in everyday life situations.

Here are five unexpected things you’ll get really good at when you become a long distance runner.


Burton isn’t a fan of my layering skills when he’s the recipient

1. Layering Game on Point
Year-round runners learn very quickly that proper clothing is the difference between enjoyable and miserable. Much of this has to do with layering. Layer up too much, you’ll be hot and uncomfortable. Skimp on layering, you’ll waste extra energy on shivering and may even do harm to yourself. In real life, this skill is one that comes in handy in more situations than you’d realize.

A few weeks back, my friend Heather and I planned to go cross-country skiing. Without hesitation, I knew exactly what I’d wear to be comfortable. Another time, I participated in a photo shoot for work with a winter sleigh ride-theme. While some of my coworkers were cold and uncomfortable, I was nice and toasty, thanks to my expert layering.
2. Math, Numbers and Distance – Oh My
After you’ve racked up enough long run miles and routes, you’ll find yourself very in tune with distances. As someone who’s not a numbers gal at all, this one has been great to hone.
A coworker asks how far it is to the offsite meeting – you’ll have a good idea.
A friend wants to know how far your house is from his – you can estimate it within a stone’s throw.

This came in handy last week. I had plans to go to my future in-law’s house in the evening and was going to stop by after my run. Then I thought, why don’t I just run over – like, literally run there. In less than five seconds, I estimated how far it would be from my doorstep to theirs. And I was right.
3. Hit the Spit
I’m not sure why but runner makes you spit; long runs are especially synonymous with it. Runners get really good at clean, quality hawking of lugis – factoring in wind speed and direction, using stride to maximize distance, all of it.

Sometimes, you just need to spit. Anyone who has ever tried to and wound up with crud all over their collar can appreciate the importance of this skill.

As a girl who grew up with five brothers, I already kinda had this skill in my back pocket. I’ve really refined it in the past 10 years as a runner.
4. Powering Up Without Slowing Down
This one goes out to my ultra runner and hardcore triathlete peeps. Distance runners need fuel and hydration to make it through long runs.

In my early running years, I had to stop to eat my energy gel and I struggled with gut rot after. I was also notorious for spilling water or Gatorade all over myself while attempting to throw it back without breaking my stride. Now, I can open and eat a gel, and drink water without spilling, all without having to stop. No stomach discomfort either! Ultra runners and long-distance triathletes have to be even more skilled at eating and drinking mid-workout; many eat actual food, not just gels, blocks and beans.

I have to admit, I haven’t been able to directly tie this skill to real-life yet. I prefer to sit down and enjoy food vs. eating on-the-go. I do think busy parents would probably find it helpful to be an expert at eating and drinking in transit – so something I’ll hopefully benefit from if I become a parent!


With beautiful scenery like this ahead, it’s easy to just enjoy it

5. Lost In Thought
Whether you run with or without headphones, all distance runners learn the skill of getting into the zone and getting lost in thought. At first, it’s tough to shut off the mind from thinking about how many miles, how many steps til the next mile, those types of thoughts that can make a run seem endless. Eventually, the run becomes less focused on the actual run and more just enjoyable “me” time.

From being more mindful at work, to being able to shut off your brain at night and sleep, to zoning out while watching a show you find boring but that your spouse loves, this skill is probably the most useful in everyday life.

What are some unexpected talents you’ve found through running? Share by leaving a comment or tweeting me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

As always, if you know a runner who would like this post, please share on your Facebook or Twitter!


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