In Defense of The Runners

Don’t listen to Amelia, she rides horses.


We were standing at Le Pain Quotidien in 2010, rolling our eyes at the moron asking for almond milk in his tea. “Tea drinkers are worse than cat lovers,” I whispered to Amelia and she snarled in acquiescence.

Then there we were again last week on a Tuesday morning. I was waiting for the gentleman behind the counter to ring up my order and while I watched him swipe my credit card, Amelia looked at me and ruefully exclaimed, “I don’t even know you anymore.” I’d ordered a large cup of hot water replete with lemon and I imagine she waited until the twenty-third hour to share her two cents because she thought I was performing a terrible joke.

I laughed her comment off  — why she said what she did is because until two weeks ago my blood type was Coffee Positive. I have been told on a number of occasions that watching my transformation from un-caffeinated to caffeinated is like watching the sun rise. Initially, it’s dark, you’re scared because you’re not sure what to expect and you’re right in feeling that way because if you act too courageously you might get hurt but then ba da bing, ba da boom: the sun comes up (I drink my coffee), the world begins to shine, birds are chirping and humanity’s natural order is restored.

See but I started running — walking, actually — in June after I’d read in one of the plethora of Anti-Cancer books I have assumed as bibles that walking four miles a day can minimize the chance of your cells erratically dividing into the pen that scribes your death sentence.

It began innocently. Early on Friday mornings, I would drive to Southampton to meet my parents at their home. We would put on sneakers and begin a four mile walk that would last approximately one hour which we would repeat on Saturdays and Sundays. Then, while my father went for a health-eradicating pain au chocolat post-walk, I would go to Juice Press to pick up a cold brew that came with a notice which read, “Coffee should never be confused with a healthy drink. It contains theobromine which is essentially a poison the body must filter.” Frankly, it barely even phased me. I was now a champion walker, creating an internal environment that would allow little room to err, theobromine or not.

But when the summer ended, it occurred to me that in order to maintain my life’s only resolution, to not contract cancer, I would have to go to extreme measures. Like a treadmill.

So, one day in September just after New York Fashion Week, I went to the gym. I anticipated walking but the walk got boring so I started running which I soon learned was probably the ingredient that Elizabeth Wurtzel omitted when she wrote about her tribulations in Prozac Nation, and before I could become one of the lamentable Facebook status chanters — Nike shop tab open on browser, Dri-Fit t-shirts in cart — that Amelia staunchly stood against just two weeks ago, I was running four miles a day.

Recently, however, I started to experience palpitations that made my heart feel like it was an aberrant drummer. I was actually pretty sure that I was dying until two weeks ago when my body essentially crawled out of its skin to tell me that I am terrible at decoding its messages. Earth to Leandra! It said. We don’t need the third party — artificial energy — anymore. 

Which is why in spite of Amelia’s protest against the, yes, insufferable 5k runners of Facebook, I want to vet in favor of your running. Not so that you can become a chronic status updater or even really because I think your calves would look better if they were 20% more toned. I am just so thrilled that I have become a human coffee bean, which as far as I’m concerned, is really the only superpower worth achieving. Now, please excuse me while I sip on my lukewarm water plus lemon.

Image via Vogue, 2008

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  • Run on, Leandra. I’ve been running for over 10 years and I’ve never needed coffee. Even when I was a barista and coffee was at my fingertips, it gave me the shakes and eventually I opted for no-caffeine. If you’re feeling fancy, let me suggest some raw ginger thrown into your hot water and lemon concoction – it’s delicious!

  • lavinia

    this made me want to lace up my nikes and go for it. you have become your own little keurig ! I would do the same if i wasnt fearful of the withdrawal from diet coke and tea.

    i write fashion columns and i think you would enjoy them.

  • Rebeka Osborne

    I stopped drinking coffee every day about a year ago and now, when I have it it’s SO good. I also find that I don’t really miss it most of the time.

  • CDJ

    I cut out all caffeinated beverages about a year ago. Caffeine makes my skin crawl and my anxiety to sky rocket. One of these days I’ll be a runner. I envy those “I LOVE TO RUN!” people, but I’m with Amelia on the keep that ish off social media. I’m trying to become a yogi, so after that, maybe I’ll be a decaffeinated runner.

  • Adrianna Grężak

    I’m a tea drinker, AND I love cats!

    I used to have a really tough time running – my ankles and knees hurt and I got winded after about 30 seconds. Since I attended NYU and worked in retail, I walked about 5 miles a day without even trying, but I just could not run.

    I started 2011 with one main mission – conquer this problem and become a runner. I did my research (highly recommend the book Born to Run) and realized that my running form was completely wrong (heel striker) and standard running sneakers felt completely unnatural (I currently wear Merrell Pace Glove). I suddenly used muscles I never used before, and there were a couple of weeks where I had to concentrate just to walk down the block. I graduated college that year, but I almost felt more accomplished when I ran 5 miles the same month.

  • Glad to hear you found something that you enjoy doing, and helped you kick the coffee habit. I find myself not drinking it as often as I used to, since tea seems to offer a more even-keeled morning pick me up. That, and I don’t really even like coffee – hence all the sugar and creamer it takes for me to choke it down. I figure if I have to “choke it down,” I shouldn’t be drinking it, right?

    You keep running…and drinking your hot water with lemon!

  • dd

    Thanks for making me google, “theobromine”. Run on, sista!

  • I don’t drink coffee, except when I am in South America. Black coffee here is absolutely disgusting. My addiction was Pepsi or Coke for a long time. A few months back, I decided to give it up. I still get my caffeine through iced tea, or the occasional Chai Tea Latte. But I definitely don’t get that URGE for caffeine anymore.
    It’s a nice feeling. I see any type of addiction as a sign of weakness. I feel ending my caffeine addiction is a small victory which makes me feel like a bad-ass.

  • I love that you’re like, coming out of the closet, with this. 😉 I think Runners in Secret are the very best kinds. I always assume: the more discreet the athlete, the higher their creds. And vice versa.

  • Running leaves us so much more rejuvenated, it’s great.

    Question: don’t you also get bored running on a treadmill? I know I would get so bored, since much of the enjoyment for me is scenery, fresh air, other pedestrians. I feel like 4 miles would seem like 10 miles, but maybe that’s just the trick to better endurance.

    Vive le run!

  • Exercise is super personal, so I’m all in favor of people doing what works for them. Just don’t push it on everyone else or expect a gold medal for exercising. And I could do without the fitbit updates, too.

  • Quinn Halman

    At my cottage I will walk 4.2k each way into town to get coffee. I’m not sure what that says about me but there’s only one place in the world I’ll run. So if we’re picking sides here or something Amelia and I can cheer you runners on, coffee in hand

  • johnjannuzzi


  • johnjannuzzi


  • Tessa

    Still guilty of a caffeine addiction, and also guilty of feeling not-so-guilty about it. I have a strange question to pose, however – I’m a frequent runner myself, but also a big fan of 2nd (…3rd, 4th…) day hair. So how do you manage the issue of daily sweating and lack of showering?

  • Christina

    I highly recommend the “Shopping Cool-down” – pick a running route that ends on a shopping street – there is always a discreet pocket where one can tuck a credit card!

  • Wow, fantastic and motivating post. I’m glad you continued your health routine after the summer. Yey!

  • Laura F.

    It sounds so precious to say “I’m a runner” but three marathons into it, I guess I am. I also drink coffee, one cup per day. (OK, sometimes two.) Co-sign the commenter who said if you have it occasionally, it tastes extra good.

  • Lucy

    Among other things that I will not list due to the creepy nature of how many there really are (ex: I recently bought those exact ray-bans you posted yesterday, and I wear my retainers err night) I have come to the conclusion that we are friend soul mates. Is that weird to say? Yes it is.. Sorry. Most who read your site are too. We are all friend soul mates. We should have a party. Anyway.. I have been running 4-5 miles a day for the last year. My weight hasn’t changed, which is fine. I do not post about it (crap, this makes me a hypocrite). But it gives me energy and stress release. Thank you for defending the runners. Oh and I drink hot water all day long. Hydrating and keeps you warm. What could be better?!

  • lisahart

    Hi, you’re awesome, the end.

  • ClothesHorse

    So glad to hear you started to run. It has made me feel so much better in so, so many ways – and most importantly, mentally. The feeling after a good run is something no chemicals can replace. I think you would enjoy this, Leandra! x

  • Alley

    Nooooo. Coffee is the last of the acceptable drugs. Do not take this away from me.

  • arz

    I drink 6 cups of tea, one cup of coffee and never ever run. I hate running… I’m 47 years old and really healty fit person… Dont let them wash your brain with that healt bullshit.. enjoy life… love from İstanbul

    • Leandra Medine

      You sound like my grandma who is coincidentally enough ALSO from Istanbul. No one has joie de vivre like the Turks

  • christina

    Good for you, I can’t wait to follow your evolution. Keep strong! 🙂 Also, I just added your blog to my blog list, as it’s part of my daily readings 🙂

    Keep up the good work! xoxo from Switzerland!

  • I’ve been cutting down my coffee intake slowly over the last few months and I wake up perky-er (not so sure if that’s a word) and fall to sleep easier. I’ve taken up walking as a hobby and I genuinely enjoy it! Give yourself a sunny day, good company and a killer pair of sunglasses and it really is the best way to pass a few hours!


  • Marguerite

    Salut !

    Please don’t become one those annoying juice, weird diets girls. I thought you were a francophile? Coffee, wine and chocolate are the essence of life. Bisous from France

  • ALICIA ARKELL I’m not saying that this article should become a coffee lovers bible, but it does offer another side of the story. Civilizations have been drinking coffee for thousands of years, it does have significant health benefits, but treated improperly, it can also be very harmful…. but what can’t? Don’t hate on coffee!!!

  • Laura

    Competitive runners actually use coffee for performance enhancing..just FYI. I feel much better if I run after a cup of coffee than if I don’t. Perhaps it’s mental but being a competitive runner most my life many of us drink it for the benefits of enhancing our workouts and races.

    • Leandra Medine

      Oh, don’t get me wrong — I am definitely NOT running competitively and this is wholly a personal recount of my own experience with running, which has turned me off from coffee, which I found unusual, which is why I wrote this

      • What if the MR Running Club that was previously a reading club, actually ran a 5k?

  • CarlotaLMorais

    We call this hot water with lemon Carioca, its a cool name for such a simple drink.
    I am like your old self, I’m not totally dependent on it but feels like the best thing in the world in the morning, I dont even like plain milk anymore!
    I’ll try this , walking and no coffee for a week to see how I do.

  • Caroline D. Gomez Lassalle

    I think runners are amazing and I admire their discipline to the point of envy but I could never part with coffee. This post almost broke my heart. It’s not only because I need to keep awake to endure tedious law school reading but because I genuinely adore the taste. I’ve never found good coffee on the States but here in Puerto Rico we have some of the best coffee worldwide. Apart from the flavor, I’m just very attached to the memory of my deceased grandmother giving me a baby bottle filled with very light, luke warm coffee. She was a coffee lover, had it every morning and afternoon and it’s become an important ritual in my life. There are few things I enjoy more than my morning coffee, some Nina Simone blasting and a light reading before walking out the door.

  • Tamara

    Coffee drinking runner here…been running most of the days of my life for the past 20 years. Since I’ve made it this long, I’m keeping both in my life (50 in June. Yup. 50. This may be the first time I’ve put that in print.) welcome to the club.

  • Kandeel

    i wish i could run outside too bad im stuck in snow

  • Marianna Spanos

    If this were instagram I would be double tapping….!

  • Isabel Furneaux

    Right on Leandra! I kept telling myself to get back into running regularly; so yesterday I signed up for my first half marathon this September in beautiful Shelburne, Vermont. Here’s to the runner’s high, and I guess longevity!

  • Isabel Furneaux

    Right on! I kept telling myself I needed to get back into/into running regularly; so yesterday I signed up for my first half marathon this September in beautiful Shelburne, Vermont. Here’s to the runner’s high, and longevity I guess!

  • The Garment Fox
  • krissiathaiane

    I’ve given up coffee for a year now, and I feel so much better. I initially gave it up because I was pregnant, and after going so long without caffeine, once I had my first cup post-baby I felt sick for the rest of the day. Now I’m an avid tea drinker, but since I love the taste of coffee I get a decaf latte from time to time.

    I also find that taking a multivitamin and some maca supplements in the morning, does wonders for my energy level throughout the day.

    As for running… I’ve tried all my life and it still hasn’t happened for me. I can’t run a whole mile without wanting to die. Going to keep trying though, my goal is to be able to run a 5k