The Bullshit Report

'I Don't Have a Runner's Body'

WELCOME TO EARTH: Fartlek Training

This is The Bullshit Report, the angry little corner of POSSESSED magazine where we attack and debunk some outrageous, long-held myth from the world of running. 

How many times have you heard (or worse, uttered) the words ‘I don’t have a runner’s body’? People say it all the time. ‘Oh, I wish I could run, but I just don’t have a runner’s body.’ This is like saying, ‘Oh, I wish I could eat pizza, but I just don’t have a pizza eater’s mouth.’ Which is absurd, and so is believing your body was not designed to run.

The notion of a ‘runner’s body’ implies an ideal physique you must possess if you are to run. But unless you have an injury of some sort or a health issue—congenital or otherwise—that actually prohibits you from running, guess what? You can run. And you can run because you have run before.

For the first ten to eighteen months of your life, you could not walk. You couldn’t go to the bathroom or safely prepare a deadly Fugu pufferfish either, but mostly you could not walk. But then you learned how to walk, and not long after that, you decided to see how fast you could walk, and that was how you began running. And you didn’t stop running (and breaking stuff, and leaving grubby hand marks all over the walls, and being a pain in the ass) for years. So, what happened? Why did you stop running? And when did you decide your body was no longer good for running?

Chances are, you ran around until adolescence, at which point you became more interested in (or encouraged to be more interested in) sedentary activities. Not all kids are like this. Some keep running around and participating in sports through their teenage years and into adulthood, but if you believe that you don’t have a runner’s body, you more than likely would have begun forming that idea in your teens, around the same time you got into writing poetry and wanking. Another way you might have learned to think your body isn’t equipped for running is gym class. Cast your mind back to your high school days, and you’ll either recall enjoying P.E. or pretending to be sick to get out of P.E. because P.E. was humiliating. If you enjoyed P.E., you probably will have enjoyed physical activity into adulthood, and hopefully you still do. If you loathed P.E., it’s easier now to say, ‘I don’t have a runner’s body’ than ‘The shame and trauma I experienced as a teenager because I wasn’t as physically adept as my peers has carried over into my adult life and now any form of physical activity reminds me of that pathetic, defenseless kid I once felt myself to be—please, please help me, Gabor Maté.’ Who knows, though, maybe there’s some other reason you decided you can’t run. But let’s look now at the reasons why you can.

One: You are a biped. You have two legs, you stand upright, and your body (you own a body!) has evolved over millennia to facilitate bipedal locomotion.

Two: Most mammals have pretty short legs in proportion to their body size. You have long legs in proportion to your body size. This is because your body was designed by evolution to run.

Three: You come equipped with sweat glands that produce sweat to cool your body. In fact, of the 6,400 species of mammal in the world, you have the most sweat glands. Scientists would go so far as to say you have a 'uniquely high density of sweat glands,' ten times that of your closest banana-eating relative.

Four: Your body has a component that evolved explicitly for running: the Achilles tendon. It is the thickest tendon in the human body, and it’s there to provide ‘elastic energy storage’ for running. Most of the great apes don’t have an Achilles tendon, or if they do, it is very short and ineffectual (except in the case of gibbons). A sentence I found on the internet states that the ‘absence of a well-developed Achilles tendon in the nonhuman African apes would preclude them from effective running, both at high speeds and over extended distances.’ Ipso facto, you’re meant to run at high speeds and over extended distances—unless you’re one of those clever apes who can read.

And finally, five: your ass. If you weren’t meant to run, you wouldn’t have a butt. That thing isn’t just for sitting on—it’s your locomotive engine. You have well-developed gluteal muscles to power the activity of running, either away from or towards things. If you were only built to walk, you’d have a couple of tennis balls for ass cheeks (you also would have been eaten by a sabretooth tiger by now). But instead, you have a big ol’ ass. We all do. It’s the biggest thing on our bodies, and if you don’t use it, you’ll... notice it getting bigger, actually, but not in a good way.

Anyway, you were born to run, so run, fucker, run.