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July 6, 2017

Conversational Etiquette for Attending the Church of Sunday Long Run

The fabled Church of Sunday Long Run has been a celebrated tradition in the daily grind of distance running for millennia. Holy texts tell us of historical gatherings, large and small, in which groups of people would meet to knock out 20% of their weekly mileage in one fell swoop. Apostle Chris McDougall has preserved the ritual in his holy scripture, Born to Run. Similarly, another Chris shares with us the parable of Saint Goucher ascending the sacred Magnolia Road at the behest of The Prophet Mark Wetmore in Running with the Buffaloes.  

The earliest documented example, of course, is the Greek hero Pheidippides, who is said to have died in the ecstasy of spiritual enlightenment that we now call an endorphin rush. But the mythos of the long run actually traces itself all the way back to the pre-historical Mesopotamian city of Ur where pre-elite athletes Gilgamesh and Enkidu planted the early seed for what ultimately became the PAAVO system.

Modern examples of the practice range from scrawny, shirtless high school boys meeting up at the local trail head to Fuel-Belt cults passing around their Holy Communion of GU packets. There is ongoing debate as to whether this Sabbath falls on the first or last day of the training calendar, but it has been well established that only pagans and blasphemers pay worship mid-week.

But what would faith be without prayer? Almost as sanctified as the long run custom itself is the usually borderline offensive conversation that accompanies it. Often this banter takes the form of witty, lighthearted humor at the expense one or more present congregation members. But these impromptu roasts can go too far.

Just last week, I was running with a buddy of mine who had gotten his $1,000 laptop stolen from his home in the middle of the night. I made one little joke about something else that the thief might have stolen while my friend slept (i.e. his dignity). And then things fell apart. My buddy stopped in the middle of the road, removed his shoes and sulked back the way we’d come.

I didn’t go back for him (I was just starting to get a good rhythm going), but the exchange did sit in the back of my mind for the remainder of the run.

Had I crossed the line? Was this the end of our friendship? Is a man anything without his MacBook Air?

I started wondering about the way I conducted myself out on the pavement sanctuary—all the “Your Mom” jokes and bodily function quips—and came to the conclusion that I needed to start acting with a little more decency. The Church of Sunday Long Run is a time honored tradition, after all, and the Running Gods are always watching. And so, lest you also lose your way, here are some frequent topics of conversation that arise during the weekly service, and some suggestions for how to conduct yourself within them.

Loss or Destruction of Personal Property

Learn from my mistake here. When it comes to theft, vandalism, or anything else pertaining to the loss of a physical commodity, it’s best to commiserate with your fellow runners instead of berate them for leaving their front door unlocked. The amount of concern you display will inevitably depend on the monetary or sentimental value of the object in question. A stolen pair of PR spikes will obviously illicit more condolences than say, a runaway pet (which can always be replaced). Whatever you do, do not call them a negligent imbecile whose mother never loved them, as it only makes them cry. (I’m sorry, Jack! Please return my calls!)

Bad Races

It’s always a delicate situation when someone in your training group lays an egg, shits the bed, or otherwise runs a race that barely registers on the V-Dot charts. Should you happen to be this unfortunate slow-poke, it is best to deflect attention or just flat out lie. Try to run races that don’t have online results. Fudge your running log. Measure the course with your GPS and pronounce it a quarter-mile long. Failing that, just say you ran the race as a tempo.

Now if someone else is the slow one, let the insults begin. Call them a speed-walker, ask them every half mile if they need to stop and take a break. Don’t feel bad. He deserves it. This is the guy who sits and kicks in workouts, the guy who still makes fun of you for wearing basketball shorts one time to XC practice back in high school.

Shorts

And speaking of shorts, seriously, if you’re over the age of 15, man up and tan those thighs. (Although some of my CITIUS MAG colleagues would disagree) Full split is optional, but anything longer than three inches is subject to extreme ridicule. As for half-tights, that’s a completely different conversation.

Significant others

This one can get a little dicey. It is important to keep tabs on the current relationship status of all runners if your group. I find it helpful to keep a phone tree that can alert everyone at a moment’s notice should Carla’s boyfriend dump her the night before a 20-miler. She pushes the pace when she’s angry and her break-up fueled rage knows no sympathy for water or bathroom breaks.

As for talking about a significant other on the run, one should follow a few simple rules:

  1. What happens on the run stays on the run.
  2. Beyond the hour mark, only negative comments are allowed.
  3. Pics encouraged so long as they do not violate rules 1 and 2 above.

Should your significant other decide to attend the weekly service with you, you are obligated to stare him/her in the eye as they fall off pace. Any sandbagging or compassion will be read as disloyalty to the group, and you will be immediately excommunicated.

Would-You-Rathers

These are kind of like the lost books of the Bible or a church-wide corruption scandal—they’re not officially part of the long run conversational cannon, but damn, they’re fun to bring up. But just like anything else, there’s a line to be crossed when polling your friends on if they’d rather slide, head first, down a 100ft razor blade into a vat of rubbing alcohol or suck the snot out of a dog’s nose until its head caves in.

Where that line is, though, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

TV Shows

This is probably the most important topic on this list and the most divisive. There are several considerations to take into account here including spoilers, binge-watching suggestions and lines quoted from The Office. But these pale in comparison to a debate raging at the heart of this topic (and, really, life as a whole)—WHY DIDN’T SEAN AND EMMA END UP TOGETHER IN DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION?!?!?

We did not sit through seven seasons of the classic Ross-Rachel “will-they, won’t-they” trope just to see Sean shipped off to war right when things were actually going well for them. I mean, my god, this couple! They survived break ups, personal tragedies, infidelity, more breakups, pregnancy scares, Sean going to prison, even Emma marrying Spinner! And that kiss at the end of season six when Emma hits Sean with that bombshell, “you need to save yourself…from yourself.” Gah! My heart! Seriously, we haven’t cared this much about a TV couple since Corey and Topanga and all the writers left us with was an awkward, crummy photo where Sean looks almost as constipated as Emma does 12 years old. Our only hope now is to wait for the Instagram/Snap-story reboot, Degrassi: Drake’s Revenge, but even that won’t make up for the sleep I’ve lost imagining Emma spending the rest of her life with freaking Damian Hayes.

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