Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

The trail runner’s guide to excuse-making alt

Illustration by Jeremy Collins

Everyone makes excuses, but trail runners are among the most prolific. Excuses are not lies, though, so there’s no need to fret over morality. They are merely rationalizations for less-than-optimal performances or slip-ups, and just plain make you feel better about yourself.

Win, lose or tie, you should have a library of excuses to explain why you failed to pull off the win, bombed far from your personal record or DNFed because you were so miserably undertrained. Following are some proven winners to add to your repertoire.


  • It was so hot I got heat stroke and was so disoriented that I spent 90 minutes sitting at an aid station thinking I was in the waiting room of a day spa, awaiting my cucumber facial and pedi.
  • It must have been (insert appropriately freezing temp). I lost circulation in my fingers/toes/nipples.
  • It was just too dusty/dry/humid/smoky/mosquito-y/foggy for my delicate skin.
  • Too weathery.

The Course

  • Trail was totally mis-marked. I lost over (insert appropriate time) trying to get back on course.
  • No one warned me that it was all uphill.
  • No one warned me that it was all downhill.
  • I didn’t want to get my feet wet on the creek crossing, because I prune easily, so I ended up traversing the creeks until I could find a bridge.
  • I run better on wider, flatter trails with less rocky stuff, like carriage roads or bike paths.

Aid Stations

  • They didn’t have fruit-punch flavored drink, and that’s the only flavor that doesn’t give me explosive diarrhea.
  • They only had Coke—everyone
  • knows that in a 25K/50K/50-mile/
  • 100-mile race, Pepsi is the bomb.
  • Gummy Bears had Splenda in them.
  • The boiled potatoes were mushy, and there was no gravy.
  • They only had food and beverages.


  • My shoelace blew out—twice.
  • The ergonomics on my water bottle were totally jacked.
  • My gel bottle was: clogged/too big/too small/an ugly color/filled with skanky, two-month-old GU.
  • These new shorts/shirt gave me a horrible crotch/armpit/nipple/butt-crack rash.
  • The tread pattern on my shoes was terrible for that type of terrain.

Family and Work

  • I’m been trying to save my marriage, and my counselor said not to get my heart rate too high.
  • I haven’t been able to train. The boss has me working 60-hour weeks because the company is: going bankrupt/public/being audited/expanding/down-sizing/being sued by 18 retirees from Yuma.
  • My wife/husband/mistress/cabana boy/nanny hasn’t been putting out, so I haven’t been able to release my sexual chi.
  • I’ve spent the past month remodeling the bathroom for a euro-chic feel with a strong bohemian paisley motif.

Physical Ailments

Author’s note: excuses based upon physical problems are the most convincing. Who’s to say you really didn’t
twist your ankle or get a migraine?

  • I ate some bad meat and now have an extreme case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.
  • I subluxed my (insert the medical term for any body part; the more technical sounding the better, e.g. “radial ulnastic capillarium”).
  • My allergies/herpes/acne/gangrene/hemorrhoids/leprosy/dandruff is really bad at this altitude.
  • I’m PMS-ing (note: only works for women and really bitchy men).
  • I barfed.
  • I couldn’t barf.
  • My chakra was completely out of alignment and I didn’t have my healing wands or vision crystals with me.
  • I think my hamstring/Achilles tendon/liver/large intestine/gall bladder/rectum is torn/ripped/ruptured/tweaked/snapped/torqued/
  • mangled/strained.

But you can’t just lamely dribble the excuse out—you must sell it with gusto! With proper body language (no slouching) and verbal delivery (sound pissed off) you can convince anyone that your excuse is not some illegitimate alibi, but a statement of fact. If the person doesn’t look like he or she is buying it, throw in a few “seriously’s,” “I swear on my grandmother’s grave’s,” and “I shit you not’s” to seal the deal.

So there you go. Have a bad race? Ha! Who cares? Sell one of the above excuses and you’re blame free. Just hope that the person you’re dropping the excuse on actually finished the race so you don’t have to listen to him/her whine a litany of unbelievably lame excuses.

Jonathan Thesenga was late turning in this column because he was surfing in Mexico to rehab a torn meniscus. Seriously.

This article originally appeared in our November 2005 issue.

Trending on Trail Runner Magazine

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada