Typically I don’t run races. Why pay good money for something I can do for free in my own neighborhood? Yet once I heard about the Soldier Field 10 a few years back, I was hooked. You finish at the fifty-yard line inside the stadium and get to wave at your sweaty, exhausted self on the jumbotron.

Sign me up.

The first year I was too pumped about being on that jumbotron to really think about much else. I wasn’t even that tired upon finishing the race and naturally assumed that the next time would be just as easy. I was wrong. A year later, I was thoroughly bored by mile two and aimlessly staring down Lake Shore Drive. I had a whole lotta road ahead of me and was already beginning to lose my motivation. How would I ever finish this race? That’s when I began to notice all the other thousands of runners pounding the same pavement. Some were young. Some old. Some questionable as to whether they fully understood what they had signed up for. I saw more than a few individuals heaving as if they had never run a mile in their entire lives, let alone ten of them. Were they doing the race merely for that sweet jumbotron fix as I was?

Either way, people watching during the Soldier Field 10 has become my dirty little secret to success. The racers come in all shapes and sizes, but I have definitely noticed a few familiar types. Most annoy me, but then again, most people do no matter if I’m trekking against Lake Michigan or checking out at Target. (I’m talking to you, Ms. “Accidentally” Ram Me In The Backside With Your Shopping Cart.) Below is my unscientific list of the most common runner archetypes:

1. The absent-minded professor. Usually over the age of forty, this runner is totally in his own world. He’s a bit on the slow side, which is fine, until you try to pass him. The instant you attempt to go around him, he moves over to block you. Then you’re forced to awkwardly stop short to avoid tripping up both you and him. This cycle can repeat a number of times before you finally are free of his invisible prison.

2. The cat burglar. This runner is usually a dude, too, but much younger and faster. He’s the guy who is constantly trying to squeeze himself through the spaces between other runners, yet is rarely successful in accomplishing this feat without knocking into one or both of the unsuspecting victims. Moreover, this dude barely utters an apology and just keeps on running to inflict more carnage on those in front of him.

3. The chatty Kathys. As the name implies, these runners are women, and they always come in packs of two. Quite frankly, the chatty Kathys amaze me. I don’t know how they do it. It’s hard enough for me to weakly mouth thank you to anyone who cheers me on during the race, let alone engage in a full-blown conversation while running. Also impressive is that these women typically move at a fairly fast clip.

4. The tease. This runner can be male or female. Regardless of gender, they both display what I consider very bad running manners: they speed up and then slow down without any warning whatsoever… So here’s the deal. I oftentimes use other runners to keep my pace; however, I try to do it discreetly by running in sync behind them. I’ll shadow someone who I think is a good match when all of sudden they slow down two or three clips for no apparent reason. Or maybe I’m not as stealthy as I think, and they’d rather not have my annoying ass following them to the finish line.

5. The odd birds. This is the category in which I lump runners who can’t be explained any other way. Case in point? Tutu lady. I noticed this woman as I was on my way back to the stadium, though I heard her before I actually saw her. To my left I overheard a young man politely comment, “Nice hula,” to another runner. Okay, he’s a dude and didn’t know the difference between a tutu and a hula skirt. Yet instead of graciously accepting his compliment, or gently correcting him on his misused terminology, I listened as someone barked back, “It’s not a hula! It’s a tutu! Because I’m tutu cute!” I immediately had to know who this person was and turned around to find a fifty-something woman in braids and a handmade orange and navy tutu – it’s the Soldier Field 10, after all – huffing and puffing down the path. After that, I couldn’t escape her. Though she didn’t quite look the part of a runner, she definitely could keep her pace with me. She also made it her personal mission to verbally berate anyone who had decided to take a breather and walk. “Come on! Don’t stop now!” she would scream at the bewildered participants. Even I was afraid to slow down for fear that she would publicly chastise me.

The Soldier Field 10 has become a tradition of sorts for me. It marks my official start to the summer. It allows me the opportunity to come home and see family and friends. And it reminds me that running is about more than just winning… It’s about making fun of people.

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