When it comes to running, the world is divided into two camps: do or do not. The world of competitive running, however, is much more fragmented.
Road or trail? Shorts or spandex? Solid food or gels? And don't get us started on shoes.
Chattanooga Triathlon Club members Callie Lance (president) and Misty Burch have each been running for over 10 years and can claim marathons, Ironmans and more of the kinds of races that separate real runners and from the rest of the world.
While both discovered the sport during their school years, their introduction to it couldn't have looked more different.
"When I was a little kid I loved to run in the woods behind my parents' house, and then when I was in high school I ran with my school's track team and found my love of competition," says Burch, who began running for exercise after graduating college and taking her first desk job. "I was afraid I was going to get huge," she admits.
Lance, now a chiropractic physician, had rotated through sports growing up and shifted to running in graduate school. "I'd done running on and off because of training and conditioning — and I hated it," she recalls. But with the stress of trying to juggle her studies, patients and own health, she began to reconsider. Having already focused on soccer, volleyball, swimming and rowing, running offered her a challenge.
Do their differences end there? We put some of the sport's most divisive issues before them to find out.
Trail or road?
Burch: Trail. It's an escape when I get out on the trail and it's just me and the trees and the animals. It's just soothing. On the road you have to have your head on a swivel looking for traffic, somebody pulling into a driveway.
Lance: Trail. You can turn your brain off. Like what Misty was saying, it's an escape, but also because of the fresh air. When you're running on pavement in the city or around other people, you don't necessarily get that fresh air.
* According to the fitness app Daily Burn, trail running burns 10% more calories than road running, and also improves balance and agility due to the uneven terrain.
So, then, music or nature?
Lance: I love music, it's my escape. Well, depending on my mood. If I'm in a bad mood the music is up and loud. If I'm in a great mood it's soft, and it might be an audiobook so I can also hear nature. Or some days I have kind of a headache and don't wanna listen to anything.
Burch: When I first started running I liked to listen to music. When I got into Ironman training, the hours were so long — I'd be out on the bike six or seven hours a day — there was nothing I wanted to listen to that long. I let my mind just run. That's the one time of day [my mind gets] to run wild and run free, so I don't run with music anymore, just my thoughts.
* Numerous studies have shown that music can help increase performance and decrease one's sense of exertion while also making that exertion more enjoyable.
Spandex or shorts?
Burch: Thigh gap is a myth, so I wear spandex-type shorts when I run anything more than 3 miles, to keep from chafing.
Lance: I like to run in leggings because my thighs chafe.
* Chafing is one of the most common issues for runners. Burch uses deodorant to help prevent it. "I put it anywhere there might be a little space or might chafe: inside my legs, a little farther down my arm so if it hits my side I won't have a blister," she says.
Food or gels?
Burch: I don't use gels. They feel like a rock in my stomach.
Lance: I like gels but I have to switch which ones I use all the time. I also like drink mixes. BASE Salt is the best.
Burch: Ohhh, do you have the raspberry [BASE Salt]?
Lance: I have strawberry-watermelon.
Burch: I like the raspberry one. And then sometimes I'll make my own with water, honey, lemon and Himalayan salt.
Lance: My favorite [thing to eat] pre race is a peanut butter and banana sandwich. It's really hard for me to eat after a run. Otherwise, beer.
Burch: I like peanut butter and jelly — an Uncrustable is preferred — and that's before [running]. I eat during, too. I'll do like gummy bears or some of those little CLIF Bloks. Then afterwards, I want a Coke, a beer, a water, and nine times out of 10 I want a pizza at some point.
* There is no consensus in the running community on food vs. gels, but nutritionists agree that long-distance runners need 30-60 grams of carbs per hour. If using gels, be sure to take them with water. Experiment well before race day and then stick with what works for you.
OK, dare we ask, which shoes?
Burch: Saucony Triumph. But I don't like shoestrings. I like elastic shoestrings that move with my feet when road running. When trail running, I do like my shoes to be on tight because sometimes if you trip over a root, your foot will come out.
Lance: I've got the same shoes as her; Salomons for trail. I like regular shoe laces, though. I get really bad shin splints, so I need to have the ability to have it super-tight.
* At local retailer Front Runner, the brands Hoka and Brooks account for the top-selling running shoes, says store manager Andrew Dorn. Fast Break Athletics sales associate Kerrianne Ruhling narrows the Brooks appeal at her store down to the Ghost shoe, with the New Balance 1080 and the Saucony Triumph in second and third place, respectively. "But we typically sell the most Brooks; that's consistent," she says. Perhaps that's because Hoka's design, which features a curved sole and up to 50% more padding than other shoes, tends to split the running community, Dorn says.