Never Judge A Runner By Their Grimace

Yesterday as I left New York City early in the morning I watched with a bit of envy as I drove past runners along the East River. Watching and admiring their work reminded me of a recent encounter with a non-runner. They remarked that on a drive along the East River they couldn’t help but notice how miserable each and every runner looked. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves?!

Hey, maybe he's just waking up!

Hey, maybe he’s just waking up!

I nodded and didn’t say anything because if you aren’t a runner, it is impossible to understand that there is a whole lot more going on there. Sure there are miserable runs, especially this time of year as the heat finally sets in. We just got finished griping about how awful this past winter was and then the first hot and humid days hit and I am crying, “Why can’t I do 5 miles? I did 20 just a few weeks ago!” It happens every year when summer finally comes around.  It takes a few terrible runs to get used to the heat as you squish along in your sweat laden shoes.


There are the days when your stomach decides to revolt against you or a cramp in your legs makes every step painful. And yet we keep going. We push through a rough long run because we know that the next mile actually might turn a corner and start feeling incredible. The run itself might seem miserable but I am hanging in there for that glorious feeling that sets in about 5 minutes after I finish. I keep smiling as I sip a beer and eat a burger and enjoy my calorie deficit and abundance of endorphins.

Don’t let that miserable look fool you. Usually I am just deep in thought about a million different things. Sometimes I am annoyed with myself for spending money on an outfit that I later regret, or I am balancing my checkbook in my head. That is when I might really have a distorted look on my face, mostly because I stink at mental math. I am often thinking about what healthy meal I am going to eat when I get back, while the devil dances on my shoulder urging me to swing by and get a big juicy roast beef sandwich on rye instead.

Felt crappy at some point, but forgot all about it when I crossed the finish!

Felt crappy at some points, but forgot all about it when I crossed the finish!

I often think about other runners I pass and how they are a regular part of my morning routine. I wonder what in the world they do that allows them to run at 9:00am and laugh because they probably think the same thing about me.

A friend of mine recently took up running and lamented about her love/hate relationship with running. You see it takes a lot of hard work to get going most days and push yourself to get out the door. But once she started and got over that initial hump she realized that running can be a great experience. In fact, she said she can’t find any other activity that allows her to feel like she got nearly as great a workout in as running. She could spin for hours or swing her legs on the elliptical for days, but running does something special for her mind and body.

It is almost like a mental and physical purging process. As I got back into running the past few days from only a little over two weeks off I was annoyed by how out of breath I felt. Yet at the same time I couldn’t believe how great it was to feel my lungs burn and see the sweat rolling down my face.

If you see me grimacing out there on my run and I look like I am in pain, perhaps I am. But I am more than likely loving what I am doing or at least loving how I will feel afterwards.

Never judge a runner by their grimace.

50 thoughts on “Never Judge A Runner By Their Grimace

  1. I know exactly what you mean when you are driving past people running and you are envious… When I run by myself, I am always deep in thought! I probably have the look of confusion or something. 🙂

    • Yeah I am pretty sure I look far from pretty on my runs. I get so envious and almost feel guilty when I am injured and see other runners out! It feels good to be (mostly) back!

      • Are you still having pain? Or are you slowly coming back. It is so frustrating to be out! It is good to hear though that you are able to run a little.

  2. I totally agree! Especially because I know that the harder I push myself, the more grimace-filled my face gets. My Papa said something similar to me a couple years ago and added “They’re already skinny–why are they running?” There are just some things that non-runners don’t get!

  3. great post! I make some terrible faces, not just while running but while exercising in general. Even if it sucks in the moment the faces are just an expression of the effort I’m putting into the workout. If you catch me at the right moment though I also smile a lot when I run.

  4. So true! Love this post!! Some days it’s all SMILES! RAINBOWS! UNICORNS! And other days? It’s like I’m running in the 5th layer of hell. With a pebble in my shoe. Oh how the runners pendulum swings! 🙂

  5. I love this 🙂 I can’t even imagine the look on my face while I run, I often get so lost in thoughts I don’t even realize I am running on my long runs! I’m sure they aren’t pretty haha but you are so right regardless of how hard the run is, afterwards it is so worth it with that amazing feeling that follows !

  6. Haha love it!! Often my “concentration or thoughtful face” can be mistaken for “constipation face.” I’m typically not in pain or pooping on my run, but that’s just how it looks 😉 And Chewbacca is totally how I would look if I didn’t wear my hair up…

    • My hair is the same way. I cut it too short and now I have to straighten it or else it won’t all pull into a pony tail. It is a serious mess! LOL about constipation face…reminds me of a few of my race pics!

  7. Great post and you look fabulous!!! During my day-to-day runs, my face is pretty relaxed, even during the points of pain; however, during races, I totally tense up. It’s like my reaction to running a race!

  8. Great post! I, too, make faces when I’m running. I’m usually deep in thought since it’s my only “me” time. lol. I do make an effort to smile at people that I pass by while running though.

    • I too try to smile at people. I used to focus straight ahead but soon realized that I see these people every single morning. No sense in looking miserable and unfriendly!

  9. LOL! I think I am one of the few who don’t grimace. My mom said I’m the only runner she’s ever seen that continually has a smile on her face…we’ll see if that holds
    True when I get heavy into my marathon training!

  10. Great post. I’ve run in the park during the day and wondered if the other runners are all doctors with night shifts or actors or entertainers who keep weird schedules. I wonder what they think about me. And whether they laugh at me for speeding past them then taking a walk break down the road. Runner thoughts.

  11. Great post! It is so true what we put ourselves through… I know for certain that there are runs that I grunt and moan in pain but somehow manage to push through. I’d hate to know what people must think of me then 😉
    Unfortunately I’ve hit a bit of a mental block recently and am battling to run much, but I’m getting out there every now and then, pushing myself just a little bit, waiting for the day that I manage to push right through that wall of +40 Celcius temperatures and finish a decent long run.

  12. this is great — really enjoy this perspective, and it’s so true, how we all have our own journeys as runners and experience the good, the bad, and the amazing. 🙂

  13. Love this post! This back and forth with running is what keeps me interested in it. It’s like that most things in life–we know it’s bad/gross/whatever but we do it anyway lol!! I don’t think I’ve ran a race where I didn’t think, “What the hell am I doing?!?” but then as soon as I finish, I sign up for another one 😀

  14. I am just loving the heck out of everything you post! This is fantastic! I tend to look a little ticked off all the time anyway when I’m not (I think they call it “chronic bitchface”) so I can only imagine what I must look like to people who see me running!

    I am also terrible at mental math. There’s no way I could do it and run at the same time. You are an amazing multitasker.

    • Thank you so much! I think I have that “chronic bitchface” myself. I just don’t walk around with a smile on my face. I am a very happy person, but I don’t walk around with a fake smile. I just am me 🙂 Nothing wrong with that right?!

  15. I try to have a smile on my face when cars go by during my run. I don’t want drivers to think we are all miserable b’stards. It probably makes me look like a psycho though…

  16. Judge me by my grimace if I am doubled over on the side of the road–then stop and ask if I need help. But don’t mistake my GIVIN IT THE BIDNESS face for actual pain. It hurts soooooo goooood. Like the lacrosse ball in my glute.

  17. So true! Those non runners had no idea what they were talking about! I know I make painful faces when I run too, but it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the run anyway. And a friend actually told me he saw me running one morning when he drove by, and I was smiling big time.

    • That’s pretty awesome to hear. I am not certain of what people think. I am sure half miserable and half a complete mess with my bed hair all tied back and whatever colorful outfit I have thrown together for the day.

  18. So true!!!! I never thought of it that way. But I do remember a few times in races when I thought I felt/looked good, only to see a photo or video after and I looked like I was struggling hard core. Yes, you can’t judge a book by it’s grimace!

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