on April 13, 2016
When it comes to running, writing about running, and laughing at those who run, Mark Remy stands alone atop the podium. You may know his work as the author of Remy’s World (online and in print) when he was part of the Runner’s World staff, or his most recent project, Dumb Runner, "an online destination for runners who enjoy laughter and pie."
What you may not know about him, is that he is also an anthropologist - studying the characteristics of runners for over 20 years. With 26 marathons under his belt (and presumably other races too), he is a bit of an expert. He has funneled all of his observations into one complete guide in his latest book, Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species.
Whether you started running last week, have been at it the majority of your life, or just know people who run, everyone will find truth and familiarity from this definitive guide to runners.
If you’re looking for a plot summary, you won’t find one. In Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species, Remy has documented The North American Runner in staggering detail. “With this comprehensive guide to the 23 subspecies of runners... [he] presents the tools to observe and communicate with runners in their natural habitat.”
Runners are weird, interesting, and sometimes a bit contrarian when compared to other humans. They eat odd things, and do odd things to their bodies in hopes of running faster for completely arbitrary reasons. However, “the DNA of a normal human being and a runner is nearly 98% identical,” Remy says. Which is a helpful reminder that they are (mostly) like everyone else.
And while you may be quick to dismiss this as a silly book intended to make Remy “a pile of money,” his intentions are pure - “...to help you attain a better understanding of, and a deeper appreciation for, these creatures called runners - how they interact with one another (and with their environment); what they eat; how they communicate; and more.”
And he has done just that. Personally, I found it deeply satisfying that someone was able to finally put language to what I had been observing for all these years - These creatures I have known and been one of since the summer of 1993. While you may find the book in the satire or humor section of our local book store (let’s be honest, Amazon), I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t 100% accurate.
Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species, is a brilliantly entertaining read. Like his other books, you can leave it on your coffee table, (or in the bathroom), skim a few sections now and again, and come back to it over and over again.
I thought it would be most helpful to share how I’ve used this book/guide to better understand myself as a runner. While not a self assessment per se (unlike the one I use in my day job), it can help you identify some personality quirks, and be able to relate to (or laugh at) other runners you encounter.
Humans, especially runners, are incredibly complex beings. The 23-sub-species is a great start, but I found myself drifting between a few as I tried to self-identify in the 145 pages of this field guide. I could almost trace my own journey through the various stages of runner evolution.
For example, when I first started running (The Newbie, Lopus novus), I was definitely, “marked by his tentative gait, his tentative demeanour, and his tentative way of asking tentative questions.” As time went on, I evolved into a more confident runner with experience, taking on more challenges. Before my first marathon, I could see myself as a Bucket Lister (Lopus yolo), never thinking running long distances would become a lifestyle. Shortly after my student loans were paid off, I may have evolved again into The Gear Addict (Lopus productus). I have a closet dedicated to running gear (and old baseball cards), and while 45% of my disposable income doesn’t necessarily go towards running gear, probably more of it does than should.
Today, I like to think I have evolved into a Serious Runner (Lopus fastholus) as I continue to flirt with my own Boston Qualifier. Unfortunately, I may be transforming into The Dad Runner (Lopus paternus). While my “habitat” does NOT include the suburbs, I do retain a “stubborn competitiveness - a vestige of their days as a Fitness Runner or Serious Runner.”
“The sport bean plantations of Central and South America, which produce 90 percent of the world’s sport beans, are tremendous consumers of resources. One pound of sport beans takes as much as 28 gallons of water to produce, much of which is used for irrigation.”
Beyond the Text - Artwork and Illustrations
If you’re going to purchase this book, don’t buy the digital version. The illustrations, charts, diagrams and other tools included are best enjoyed as Gutenberg intended - on paper! You’ll find yourself wanted to reference this manual often, and having to look it up on a Kindle or iPad is just annoying. The marathon facial expression chart is probably my favorite.
What I find most remarkable about this book, is the extreme level of creativity and thought that has been put into it. There are footnotes throughout the whole thing that add a certain level of depth to the experience - almost like you’re part of an inside joke.