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Hibernation. There’s a reason that many perfectly sensible animals such as black bears (Ursus americanus), Richardson’s ground squirrels (Urocitellus richardsonii) and northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pippiens) hibernate. It’s cold. Damn cold. On the other end of the spectrum is Runnerus longdistancicus – the common long distance runner.

 Not only does this bizarre species avoid hibernation but he or she actually remains active to the point of silliness – running in severe weather and temperatures often for hours at a time. This does make Runnerus longdistancicus susceptible to frostbite and mockery among other things. However, this only seems to spur it on to even more running.

So how does the common long distance runner do it? Recently a team of brave and warmly dressed field researchers followed a group of these interesting critters and recorded their findings.

Their bulky appearance and strange craniums are actually due to multiple layers of clothing and headwear. If removed, the common long distance runner completely resembles the even more common non-distance runner, especially when placed on a couch. Layers closer to the skin are wicking in nature, while outer layers tend to be more wind resistant. Many were found to have multiple layers of hats, balaclavas and gloves on as well.

Much of the clothing tends to be reflective and/or brightly coloured. This may be part of some ornate mating ritual yet to be witnessed by researchers, a way of blinding or distracting potential predators or perhaps to avoid being run over by snow plows. More research is necessary.

Many subjects were found to be carrying small packages of gel like substances as well as water or other liquids on them with utility belt like devices (perhaps influenced by Batman?). In colder temperatures, some liquids were frozen, but many were not as they were stored between layers of clothing or in other, more imaginative locations.

Most subjects were captured on roads with less traffic, with wider shoulders and almost always coming towards oncoming traffic. Occasionally, specimens were captured on trails and rarer still with ear buds. Many of the subjects were wearing heavier running shoes, and in some cases had what appeared to be elastic gripping devices attached to their footwear or even inserted directly into the shoes themselves. They were often seen in pairs or groups – individuals were always found to have identification and a way of communicating with others on their person.

The “pack mentality” of the Runnerus longdistancicus varies. While some do prefer to actually run on their own, they all do seem to benefit from the encouragement of other members of its species or by encouraging others to partake in the freezing rituals. This could be either an example of community or sadomasochism. Again, more research is required.

Overall, while its behaviour does seem unusual and even unsettling, it does seem that Runnerus longdistancicus is well adapted to winter running. Of interest, the behaviours witnessed seem to have a contagion effect. This means that any one of us is susceptible to a mutagenic transformation and may become a member of the species ourselves.

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