Friday, November 4, 2011

German vs American Runners

Now that I've been running on the roads and trails in both Parsberg/Lupburg and Garmisch for almost 20 years, it's easy for me to look at a fellow runner and pick out whether he or she is German or American.  It has nothing to do with running style. Germans and Americans are both fast or slow, look smooth or choppy, and do long or short runs. Like American runners, German runners come in all shapes and sizes. The main difference between German and American runners is their clothing.

The easiest way to differentiate between American and German runners is their socks. One look at a runner's socks, and you know right away if he or she is German or American. We American runners like white, or off-white, socks. My mother used to tell me that you're supposed to wear white socks when doing any sort of athletic endeavor. Wearing colored socks would lead to stinky feet, stained feet from the socks' dye mixing with sweat, foot fungus, or even gangrene. Geman runners obviously have different mothers because 99% of them wear dark (usually black) socks. Maybe the cold German climate prevents the growth of foot fungus, or black German socks are made with special fibers that prevent odor or gangrene. Hmmmm....if that's true, maybe I should start running in dark socks instead of my off-white Thor-Los.

When the weather starts cooling off, Americans and Germans differ in which part of the body gets more coverage. Americans will wear shorts with a long-sleeved shirt. Germans wear short sleeves and long tights or running pants. When I was a new runner, I was told that it was more important to keep the upper body warm. Germans must be told to keep their legs warm and not worry so much about their upper bodies. I've run in shorts and long sleeves for so long, I don't know if I would feel comfortable with long pants and short sleeves.

Another way to figure out if a runner is American or German is to see if his or her clothing matches. Many experienced American runners just don't care if their shorts and tops match. They go out in whichever shorts and shirts are at the top of the stack in the closet. One of the criteria for being a real runner is that it doesn't matter if your clothing matches. I've been known to wear such combinations as purple shorts with an orange shirt. German runners seem to be more fashion-conscious. Tops and bottoms always match. German runners in Parsberg were partial to long running pants and matching jackets, even when it was fairly warm. Here in Garmisch runners wear shorts, capris, or tights with shirts that have the same color scheme. Even their shoes have the same colors as the rest of their clothing. German running clothing is expensive compared to its American counterpart. Maybe a German runner feels that if he's spending a lot of money for his clothing, he wants to look good on the trail.

One of the games that I like to play with myself while out running is guessing the nationality of the other runners that I see. This mental game would be a lot more challenging if only the Germans would start wearing white socks. Until that time comes, it will be easy picking out the Americans and Germans on the trail.