Every time I run a race, my eyes wander around to take in the scenery, to look for the next rest stop, and, most importantly, to people watch.
Over the years, I've completed probably 30 races or so, and therefore that obviously makes me a professional people watcher.
Please note that what follows is my ridiculously, over-the-top, not-at-all serious in a serious way list of "Running Types" I've become familiar with in the last seven years of my average racing career.
1) The 30-Year+ Veteran: This old guy or gal has been running since the Stone Age. They are 72 and wear uber-traditional (and 30-year-plus-old) New Balance or Asics running shoes, often yellowed with age and worn down by many years of racing. They may have a slightly awkward gait, but they run with fervor and passion, often passing by those a third of their age. Donning American flag high-cut/high-waisted running shorts, the 30 Year Vet is not someone you want to mess with. Rather, you hope to be them when you're 72.
2) The Gear-A-Holic: This runner has it all - they're decked head to toe in the latest wicking material and technological gear. This dude or chica might be wearing all of, but not limited to, the following running attire: compression shorts and/or tights, wicking t-shirt, compression arm warmers, newer running shoes, a wicking headband, Garmin watch, iPod, heart rate monitor, fuel belt, Lance Armstrong sunglasses, wristbands, and Body Glide (oh yeah, I know it's there somewhere). The Gear-A-Holic keeps a quick, steady pace, but could be a bit faster if they shed those six extra pounds worth of gear.
3) The Running Parent: Sometimes you're trapped behind this person in a 5k Fun Run. They could be pushing a double wide jogging stroller or wearing a cotton t-shirt with their childrens' faces printed on it. Sometimes, though, it's nice to run with/near The Running Parent because, inevitably, they'll see their kids along the route and you'll be treated to a funny, kid-drawn support sign and the sight of their usually adorable kids rooting them on. (Case in Point: my sister told me about a sign she saw at the Detroit Marathon that said, "Don't poop til you're done, Dad!")
4) The Newbie: Ah, yes, I was a Newbie at one time, and still consider myself to be one at times, at least until I reach The 30-Year Vet status. The Newbie is notorious for a few things: lining up too far ahead in the start corral/behind the start line, stopping suddenly or swerving to get to a water station, and, most importantly, donning the official Race Shirt before or during the actual race (my friend Kevin is the Race Shirt Police, so this one is in regards to him.) The Newbie can be dangerous, yes, but they are also eager and excited - a virtue that I think I'm losing when it comes to races these days.
5) The Elitester: Sporting lean, chiseled arms, a sponsored racing singlet, and a Boston jacket (pre/post race only, of course), The Elitester can easily intimidate just about anyone. They're fast - hence the Boston jacket - and a mere mention of their sub 7/6/5- minute miles induce salivation. I eye the Elitesters with admiration and jealousy as I run because they just make it look so damn easy.
6) The Average Joe: Woo-hoo! That's me (and just about every one else!) The Average Joes can be both easy and difficult to spot; some have that freshness about them that screams Newbie, while others run with the cadence and smoothness of an Elitester. Still others have several races under their belt - nearly enough to qualify them for Vet status, but not quite. Many Running Parents are Average Joes who love the freeing feeling of running and take up the challenge of a race quite often. Average Joes even borrow from the Gear-A-Holic quite frequently. Finally, others are like me - those that are just trying to carve out a little niche in the giant world of running. They try to set PRs, find comfortable gear, and take pride when their family comes out to support them.