Mark Remy isn’t sure when it happened, but he’s now a Grizzled Vet Runner. Or at least a variation of a grizzled vet.
“I guess I would consider myself a blend, and I think most runners would, if I’m honest,” he said.
The author of three books and former columnist for Runner’s World outlined 23 species of runners — each with a fake scientific Latin name and set of tongue-in-cheek descriptions and characteristics — in his latest book, “Runners of North America: The Definitive Guide to the Species.”
He ditched his road bike more than 20 years ago and became a runner, starting as a Newbie before evolving to a Serious Runner and landing at Grizzled Vet. Along the way, he posed as what he called an “anthropological kind of expert who is just posing as a runner myself all these years as a means to an end to study these creatures.”
And in the book, Remy mixed his observations and experiences with some humor and satire to define the various species of runners, which include Gear Addict, Trail Runner, Barefoot Runner, and Fashion Mag Runner. He pokes fun at each while also explaining each type and the idiosyncrasies that go along with it.
Despite differences in quirks, training habits, or running styles, Remy said, the sport itself bridges the gaps between these different species.
“That’s what binds us together,” he said. “It’s a great thing, particularly a weekend like the Boston Marathon. It’s a very cool thing to witness.”
With the 120th Boston Marathon nearing, Remy — who has run seven Boston Marathons himself — identified the seven species of runners who will likely make up the majority of the Boston Marathon field.
Characteristics, as described in the book: Matching shoes and clothing — shorts, singlet, jacket, hat, etc. — from sponsor; faint aura of awesomeness that’s visible in certain lighting conditions; always shorter and smaller than you’d imagined. Other than that, they look quite similar to the Serious Runner.
How to spot them in Boston:“Well, obviously, there are the elites. . . . You bump into them in this really wonderful way. Running along the Charles early in the morning or in your hotel lobby or walking down the street, at a restaurant, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s Shalane Flanagan.’ . . . You kind of wave and smile like a geek and they’re gracious because they’re awesomely laid back.”
Characteristics, as described in the book: Lanky frame; thin arms; team uniform; vaguely unnerving eyes; all Serious Runners share a reedlike physique, sunken cheeks, and hip bones you could use to crack an egg.
How to spot them in Boston: “Probably the bulk of the people in the field I would say are serious runners, which might also go without saying.”
Characteristics, as described in the book: Cheerful, hopeful, has “got this,” big smile, temporary tattoo, running shirt with charity’s logo.
How to spot them in Boston: “A smaller segment but maybe a more visible one because they’re so enthusiastic, happy to be there. Because charity runners, by their nature, tend to wear their identity on their sleeve, almost literally. They’re very visible. That’s part of their DNA as a charity runner. So you see lots of them. They’re easy to spot in the race.”
Characteristics, as described in the book: Crazy eyes, a compulsion to affix “26.2” stickers to every available surface (she may buy them by the gross), awful toenails even for a runner, travel-size foam roller, wearing running shoes that are either extremely worn (for obvious reasons) or extremely new (because she just retired a pair that was extremely worn)
How to spot them in Boston: “You’ll know it’s a serial marathoner, as opposed to a Serious Runner, because you’ll be walking behind her on your way to dinner some night before the race and she’ll be wearing the Boston Marathon jacket from 1983 with all the patches for subsequent years sewn on. She’s done like 19 consecutive Bostons and has the jacket to prove it.”
Characteristics, as described in the book: Doesn’t have time for your bull**** Walkman or whatever that doohickey is, grizzled, old, cotton race shirts, mischievous eyes.
How to spot them in Boston: “Maybe he’s also done 19 Bostons or maybe he’s only done a handful, maybe this is his first one. But he’s there, he’s grizzled, he’s ready for action.”
‘I’m Not a Real Runner’ Runner
Characteristics, as described in the book: Self-deprecation, reluctance to talk about his or her own running habits, non-flashy running shoes and attire
How to spot them in Boston: “[It] might sound funny because like, ‘Dude, you’re in the Boston Marathon. Yes, you’re a real runner.’ But that’s the essence of the ‘I’m not a Real Runner’ runner. They’re so self-effacing. I have met and talked to ‘I’m Not a Real Runner’ type runners who have told me, I’m not joking, ‘I’ve done 22 marathons, I’m not a real runner.’ It’s the essence of the ‘I’m Not a Real Runner’ runner. They’re modest to a fault. . . . It’s tricky because they’re so self-effacing, they tend to blend into the background and lurk in corners. They’re never going to advertise the fact that they’re runners. They might buy a Boston Marathon jacket but they’ll never wear it because they’re not a real runner.”
7-Minute Mile Runner
Characteristics, as described in the book: Never warms up, runs 7-minute-per-mile pace at all times, regardless of distance, purpose of run, or company.
How to spot them in Boston: “Essentially, these are the ones who will take off out of Hopkinton at a 7-minute-mile pace and feel fantastic through Wellesley or thereafter and then they’ll just sort of tank. They’ll start a 10-minute pace, a miserable few miles and they’ll wonder later what went wrong because they were doing great up until then, they were doing 7-minute miles. Because that’s all they ever do.”
Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.