You social media followers want to see you in the scariest regions on earth, and that is one of the central pillars of being a runner. Photo: AFP
Pavel Toropov
Pavel Toropov

How to become a badass runner without doing much running (but a lot of online posting)

  • Make sure all your friends and family know just how hardcore you are by posting on Instagram in the middle of a race, but avoid including trail markers in the photo
  • Who cares if every race ever marketed is called ‘The Toughest’ as long as your non-running friends think this one really is the real deal

You could be forgiven for thinking that trail running is about running. No, those days are long gone. If you want to look like a real runner, and a hardcore one at that, follow these simple tips.

Stay well clear of international marathons. They require no technical gear and yield little to no content for your social media – the best you can hope for is a shot of you showing horrendous running form, face contorted into a grimace of undignified exhaustion. Also, nobody is impressed by a top 5,000 finish.

Instead, go for “Toughest Races in Scary Places”. Antarctica, the Amazon, or any famous desert – they all qualify as scary places. The amount of gear you can attach to yourself during a Toughest Race will make you look ready to colonise Mars. The costs of doing a Toughest Race are equivalent to half-a-year’s wages in a Central European country – this keeps the fast, low-income people out, making sure that you will not suffer the indignity of placing 4,849th again.

In the weeks before the Toughest Race, post photos of the racecourse elevation profiles, adorned with calorie calculations, impressive predicted times and notes on strategy. A coffee cup and your GPS watch must both be visible in the shot.

A road runs through a tract of burnt Amazon jungle. Make sure to crop it out of the background of your remote running shot. Photo: Reuters

You don’t actually need to train much before Toughest Races – most have no cut-off times, and so you can apply your time and energy to posting on social media. But if you are a bit of an old-school perfectionist, there are few basic training guidelines.

Become an expert on core, balance, strength and cross-training. Keep yourself updated on the latest techniques, such as blindfolded single-leg squats on a pine log while holding two live squirrels – as used by Norwegian special forces.

A geologist’s guide to Hong Kong Island’s best trails

Make it clear to everyone that you are a technical runner – do so before you get lapped for the third time during that rare speed session. The tame, flat asphalt (or running track) just does not motivate grizzled mountain goats like you.

Wear compression clothing. On compression-free spaces apply kinetic tape, making sure it forms sharp, dynamic angles.

Diet – plenty of creative space here. Some go with the “I burn through anything, such are the demands of my training” principle, while others swear by the wild turmeric and turnip diet practised by the Australopithecus as they went bipedal. (Note: your choice of coffee says a lot about you as an athlete – €25 for a macchiato made from beans crapped out by flying squirrels and then sun-roasted by specially trained dung-beetles, is money well spent.)

What do you mean you don’t train core by balancing on a log holding a squirrel? Haven’t you read the latest running blog on special forces techniques? Photo: Shutterstock

Post photos of every scratch and graze sustained during training for the Toughest Race (and, of course, during the Toughest Race). Stitches and blood are a massive bonus and deserve dedicated, multiple posts.

Blisters – timing, timing, timing. The photo must be taken at exactly the right moment to maximise the size of the skin flap and the rawness of the flesh below.

Black toenails are gold – irrefutable evidence of your will holding out while your flesh succumbed to the punishment you subjected it to. Make sure you keep the nail after it falls off for the “toenail next to where the toenail used to be attached to my flesh” follow-up post that will horrify your uncle Bernard.

Do not just push through an injury, make sure everyone knows you pushed through an injury. Photo: Shutterstock

Saying that you have done a Toughest Race in Scary Place will make your audience generate images of you galloping through a boundless wilderness while navigating like Shackleton. Avoid mentioning (or providing visual evidence) that the course markings were two feet apart and that you could see a three-lane highway. And that you actually walked 95 per cent of the race.

Drop in casually that you made top 10, 20, 30 (or even top 50) in the in Toughest Race. Keep quiet about how many people there were actually in the race. Nobody needs to know about you finishing 27 hours behind the winner, six hours behind the sunburned 18-stone bloke with a beer gut, and losing the sprint finish to a housewife in her mid-seventies who took up running six months ago.

Make a lengthy post documenting how, during the Toughest Race, your mental determination rose in direct proportion to the departure of your physical powers. Recommended vocabulary: “digging deep”, “X% physical and X% mental” (fill in values at your discretion), “nothing left”, “DNF not an option.” Finish with a quote by the author of Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes or a Himalayan mountaineer.

Start an athlete profile on Facebook.

Deliver a motivational talk about what it is like to be as crazy as you. Children below the age of 10 are the perfect audience – they have to listen to anything arranged by the school and are easily impressed due to limited life experience.

Now you can think of writing a book.