From Head-Scratchers to Marvels: What’s New (to me) in Running


Anyone remember the movie Adaptation? The one about the orchid hunter?  There’s this great scene between Meryl Streep (Orlean) and Chris Cooper (LaRoche) that I think of from time to time. I found the script online and excerpted it here:


That was me with running in 2009.  Like LaRoche, the obsession just vanished. Fuck running, I was done with running.  I really turned my back on it, and uncharacteristically, I did not give it a second thought. For years! I paid zero attention to all things running-related until April 2015, at my daughter’s first birthday party, Tri Friend turned to me and said, “I’m thinking of signing up for some races. You interested?” Gradually, I found my footing and re-acquainted myself with what I liked about running because evidently, I’d entirely forgotten. Little did I know that in the 6 years since I ran Boston a veritable running renaissance had taken place. That, combined with technological innovations, social media infiltration, and our consumer driven culture, and you have a wholly transformed industry. Today, it’s a multi-faceted juggernaut!

I didn’t have the benefit of incrementally adjusting to new running norms, like using all these new re-fueling products, wearing a heart monitor, and justifying the purchase of very expensive socks. When I picked back up, I didn’t even bother to buy new running shoes! But that didn’t last for long. I am no Luddite, and I am certainly not immune to the siren call of consumer goods. Before long, I was ringing up purchases at my local Marathon Sports. Brooks apparel, HOKA shoes, iPhone arm band… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Husband would see those tell-tale yellow and black shopping bags from Marathon Sports and be like, can we pump the breaks a bit on this running business?

I had so many if these that I asked @MarathonSports to switch to paper.

And what a business it’s become.

I categorize these changes in running as head-scratchers, eye-rollers, Kool-aid moments, and marvels.


“Head-scratchers” are, for instance, the tech innovations that have infiltrated running. For instance, syncing my Garmin 325 watch to my iPhone for the first time caused me to break out into a sweat, and that was before the run. I still haven’t found the right algorithm to download that will calculate the date and time I will qualify for the Boston Marathon, based on my height, weight, age, and bowel movements…

…But I’m sure it’s in the App store somewhere.


Another “head-scratcher,” verging on an “eye roller,” is the runner physiology and biology shorthand that passes for normal conversation among runners now. “My cadence is short,” (meaning optimum steps per minute) or, “I stayed in zone 3 for most of it,” (meaning the level of exerted effort by heart rate), and “What’s your O2 max?” (I still don’t know what this means).

A real “eye-roller” for me (and I know I will get flack for this) is the preponderance of re-fueling products on the market purporting to keep runners from “bonking” or “hitting the wall” on a long run. I do not claim to know the first thing about physiology or sports nutrition, and it’s probably pretty obnoxious of me to spout off on a topic I know so very little about, but I am going to do it anyway.  I  mean, just look at this recommended re-fueling schedule for a just-OK runner like myself, posted online at Runner’s World:

15 minutes – 2 energy chews

30 minutes – 1 energy gel

45 minutes – 1 energy chew

1 hour – 1 energy chew (hourly total: 45 grams of carb)

1 hour, 15 minutes – 1 energy gel

1 hour, 30 minutes – 1 energy chew

1 hour, 45 minutes – 4 ounces sports drink

2 hours – 4 ounces sports drink (hourly total: 45 grams of carb)

2 hours, 15 minutes – 1 energy gel

2 hours, 30 minutes – 1 energy chew

2 hours, 45 minutes – 1 energy chew

3 hours – 2 energy chews (hourly total: 45 grams of carb)

3 hours, 15 minutes – 4 ounces sports drink

3 hours, 30 minutes – 1 energy gel

3 hours, 45 minutes – 4 ounces sports drink

4 hours – finished!

It is truly inconceivable to me that a runner could ingest this much fake food and sugary liquids during one race. I can’t bring myself to choke down one of those energy gels. They are called GU? I just.. I can’t even. The shot blocs, I’ve taken; but I don’t remember them making a noticeable difference. More than a few of the fueling products are floating around the junk drawers in my house (yes, we have multiple junk drawers) because I couldn’t bring myself to take them while training for the marathon last spring. “Eat” doesn’t feel like the right word. What does that tell you? These products, including the bars and the drinks, have the distinct whiff of marketing manipulation about them. It’s a distraction from running, and the hard work of running.  But that’s just me. I can hear  you all griping. I do. I’m probably not entirely right about this, but it’s my blog and this is how I feel.


By “Kool Aid” moments, I sheepishly admit to drinking the Kool Aid on becoming a “run selfie” taker and aspiring social media maven. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would post pictures of myself, taken by myself, on runs and hikes, simply to participate in this self congratulatory circle of online runners and fitness fanatics. Just by punching “#trailrunning” into Instagram, I can feast my eyes on endless photos of beautiful vistas being traversed by fit and happy people. It’s so inspiring, even if it is filtered and edited. In a few short months I created a Twitter handle, Instagram account, and this blog. Who knew there was so much content to mine, people to engage, ans selfies to like? On the topic of running?!


Top of the list of innovations that I consider “marvels” in the running world are the GPS trackers. I can remember running around Washington DC in my twenties, and even Boston in the late ’00s, feeling a little hazy on the route I’d plotted and miles I planned to cover. I would think, “Boy, it would be nice to have some tracker with me that recorded exactly where I went and how far I ran.” Sure, you could plot the run when you got home using Map My Run or something like it, but that assumes you remember exactly where you went, and sometimes it’s hard to do that!  So the GPS trackers, with all the related data now collected on these devices, is really remarkable and super helpful.

Second on the list of “marvels” are the clothes and materials for women. Wow, it’s frickin’ great.  Amazing new fabrics, awesome fit and feel, great pockets for just about everything. I can’t get enough of the stuff. It actually looks as good as it fits, too. Amazing. I favor Brooks apparel, but I love the Patagonia stuff too. It’s pricey, but I don’t regret a single purchase!

Look at the stuff we used to wear. I can just imagine my muffin top in these shorts.

What are your favorite running innovations?

What did you wear on your first run?

Are you also skeptical of any of the purported running wisdom floating around out there, such as the re-fueling plan I posted above?



3 thoughts on “From Head-Scratchers to Marvels: What’s New (to me) in Running

  1. Definitely love my GPS watch.
    I still own the ASICS shorts I started running in 14 years ago.
    There are all kinds of claims out there on everything from “food ” to shoes to how to run. What is real?
    There is a major industry around running now. All kinds of businesses popping up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I ran marathons dressed entirely in cotton. I would get labeled kooky or eccentric for that now. For real. Overall, I’m happy with the enthusiasm around the sport. And it’s far more inclusive and accessible to most people than it once was. But a the same time… a lot more expensive. So it’s a give and take in my mind.


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