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A few weeks ago I was scrolling through Instagram, as one does, past all the reels of track workouts, the glam shots of trail runners effortlessly gliding up mountain tops in Chamonix, and the pictures of Strava maps in places I can’t identify. Congrats, Linda, on your one-mile course record in Monowi, Nebraska. Then, I happened upon a skit some witty woman had put together about a bunch of running brands, personified, having drinks.
The Nike character, pouring champagne, was condescending; the Oiselle character wore a pink pussy hat, sipped red wine, and talked about contractual maternity protections; Tracksmith appeared to be drinking whiskey attempting to get a poker game started; Brooks tried to smash a Pabst Blue Ribbon can on her head; New Balance, drinking a Sam Adams, bragged about her pro athlete roster; Lululemon, not quite sure of her place in the group (“I’m trying!”), was fidgeting to get her bra pads unfolded; and the group pretended they weren’t home when Skechers arrived, knocking on the door with a six-pack of Diet Coke.
It was hilarious. It made me wonder when was the last time I actually LOLed at any kind of running content. I can’t even remember.
I became an instant (Insta?) fan of the creator, Laura Green, whose reels poke fun at herself, other runners, and yes, many of the biggest brands in the running industry.
Green, 36, is a lifelong runner who competed in middle distance for Northeastern University, one of the original November Project coaches, and a physical therapist. She and her husband, Connor, and their two young sons, live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she’s often found filming herself in the woods hoping nobody is watching.
I called Green up to find out where her inspiration comes from and why runners, as a group, offer so much material. In the words of the great Homer Simpson, “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.”
Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Women’s Running: Have you always found running humorous?
Laura Green: My base of what I love about the sport is totally rooted in the incredible coaching I had in high school. I grew up in what could be a very detrimental sport to young women, but it was the exact opposite. There was never any talk of body image or being overly competitive. We were state champions and yet we were still having a really good time on the starting line, laughing and making light of everything. I think about those building blocks and that’s definitely where it all started. My personality already is to laugh at everything, but it made me more confident in doing that. I could still enjoy the sport and compete at a high level. I never felt the need to get overly nervous about situations.
WR: So, when did you start making these hilarious videos?
LG: When my second son was born, I knew I didn’t want to go back to work full-time. The pandemic kind of took a toll, as it did on a lot of health-care workers. So I started a media company where I was filming legacy videos for people. I’d sit down with someone and ask them all about their life, from start to finish, and put it with video tours of their house or B-roll photos of when they were younger. I love the concept of saving people’s mannerisms and stories for their grandkids and great grandkids.
I come from a long line of storytellers, so this kind of fit right in. I started to do family films and something just didn’t feel right. Like I wasn’t going all in and I didn’t know why. I have a good friend who said, “You know why it hasn’t worked yet? Because it’s not comedy.” She told me to just get in front of the camera. That’s been the funniest thing for my friends because none of this is surprising to them. The humor has been interlaced with every running friend I’ve had. But it’s new to me being in front of the camera. For years I’ve been the one mocking runners all over, lovingly.
WR: Do you enjoy being on that side of the camera?
LG: One day I just ripped the bandaid off and I made a video running through the trails, which is so embarrassing. If anybody saw me, I would pretend I was bird watching and not taking a selfie video. I am just looking at this oak tree. I was so mortified. It’s gotten a little bit easier but I am strategic in where I film any of this stuff because I don’t want anyone to see me. I made a stroller-running video that kind of blew up and I was like, “Oh OK. So this might actually lead to more stuff.” And it has. So I’ve been working less on physical therapy and more on filming myself in the woods. I cannot believe I’m here.
I know the privilege that I sit in, which is having a supportive husband. I have two kids and so the financial burden of having children is a scary thing, but I have a very supportive husband who has a great job. So that’s beyond important to mention as I’m talking about having a low-pressure situation.
WR: Runners—and the brands we support—provide a lot of material. Do we all take ourselves too seriously?
LG: Maybe it’s just the way the algorithm works and what is being fed to me, but I see so much of the same stuff and you go through these cycles, right? Like, we went through a really long cycle where everyone was taking a photo of their watch after every run. I hope we’ve moved on from that. But it’s kind of the same thing with the brands. They all kind of fall into these patterns of what they’re putting out and how they’re trying to sell their products. The years I was helping November Project figure out where it fit in, I was studying these different running brands and it becomes pretty predictable. I say this very lightheartedly though, because I understand why it’s predictable—the algorithm loves predictability, so numbers grow with consistency. And, you know, the running industry is not known to take many risks, so they’re pretty easy targets. They’ve developed their reputations one way or the other.
I also come from the perspective of a competitive track athlete, the postpartum mom life, trail runner, and other seasons of my running. My point of view has been different over the years, so different brands have spoken to me in different seasons of life.
No one laughs at themselves enough. But I want to say that I am all of the people that I’m making fun of, for the most part. At one point in my life I’ve been one of these people or said these things, so it’s basically me just making fun of myself.
WR: So you come up with your best material based on your own experiences? Do you bounce ideas off of anyone?
LG: I usually come up with the idea and then I send text messages out to a couple of friends about their experiences. Like, “You’re miserable on a run and it’s really hot. What’s going through your mind?” And then they spitball things back to me. Brogan Graham, one of the cofounders of November Project, is somebody I’ve always bounced things off of creatively. I’ve known him for nearly 20 years. Sometimes I listen to him, sometimes I don’t, but it’s been very fun.
If I were doing this by myself I think I’d be a little bit bored. That, in itself, is funny, because here I am talking about how runners are narcissistic, but I’m being narcissistic by putting my face all over my Instagram. The joke is not lost on me. But the joy is always the brainstorm—that’s where the fun is, not me with a camera in front of my face. I write a script and send it out to a couple of friends and ask them how to make it funnier. These people have full-time jobs, but they’re into it. Everyone’s down for a nerdy running skit.
WR: What has been your biggest hit so far and why do you think it took off?
LG: It was definitely the stroller run, with the pregnant woman who was anticipating that she would run with the stroller every day. It’s actually incredibly difficult to do that. Some people pull it off, but it’s miserable. When I was postpartum running, there was a huge gap there—you either come back so slow you never run again or come back way too fast and you’re injured forever. There’s no middle ground for women who are looking to get back to their competitive self, to the point where I almost wanted to start pitching a website about it. It’s a very niche group, but it’s me—someone who doesn’t want to give up on running fast-ish again and is not willing to hang up her running shoes.
The video acknowledges the obstacles and I think it hit this sweet spot of people being so optimistic about returning to running and then, of course, there are so many obstacles that get in the way. I can’t explain why that one took off on a tidal wave and rolled forever. It makes me incredibly empathetic for full-time content creators who rely solely on this for income, because it’s so stressful. I don’t care at all what the numbers are like, but it is an interesting thing if you’re a data person to watch and see what happens. I truly don’t think we’re in control of it at all.
WR: Have you pissed anybody off yet or come across any material you’ve deemed off-limits?
LG: There are usually five or six jokes in each of the brand skits that I remove because I get nervous. I think it’s pretty obvious how I feel about each brand, but it’s all in good fun. I was making fun of Nike, but like half of my wardrobe is Nike. It is what it is. Certain brands do a really good job. They respond, they laugh at themselves, they acknowledge that everyone has their own opinion. And then there are ones that message me and they don’t appreciate it. I laugh and I laugh because I mean, I’m sorry, but like I also only have 8,000 followers. Not that many people are seeing this, so don’t worry about it, you know? But that’s the risk of comedy in general. If I were to play it safe on every single skit when it comes to brands, then it wouldn’t be funny.
On the flip side, I’ve been so pleasantly surprised with brands who I may have thought would have been offended and they took it in stride. They laugh along with me and have a sense of humor. A lot of people message me and ask: What about Asics? What about Saucony? What about On? And people from those brands or have worked for those brands say they are waiting to see them pop up. But a lot of them I haven’t quite figured out yet. The ones I’ve used so far are obvious to me, which I guess speaks well to whoever runs their teams, because their personalities have come across. It’s really funny how passionate people are. Like, “you didn’t include Tailwind” or whatever. There are like 87 brands of gel out there. I can’t include all of them.
WR: It’s amusing that brands have actually contacted you.
LG: Well, I mean, the insiders will be like, “So, I think it’s funny, but let me tell you, my sales guy is not happy.” [laughing]
WR: What can we look forward to next?
LG: Right now, when it comes to particular skits, I am setting the stage of introducing characters to everyone. Then I can take singular characters and put them in their own skits. I have this one building in my head of, like, Maurten and Tracksmith in the car going through the Dunkin drive-through. It’s so silly, but you can put these characters in situations and that is how my brain works. It’s constant, all day long.
WR: Generally, why do you think running lacks humor?
LG: My theory is that it’s because it’s largely an individual sport. A lot of the humor comes from the community of it, within a run club or within a group, there’s constant laughing and having a good time. There’s camaraderie there. But when people go home to their social media account, it’s all about them. They lose touch in laughing at themselves because they want to present in a certain way. That they’re goal-oriented, building toward something. But gosh, there’s so much failure in running and I wish people would laugh at that more. When running was the most fun for me, it was always when I was on a team. I had a very quick conversation with [Olympian] Alysia Montaño and asked her, “Do you think that 800 runners are the funniest runners out there?” We very much bonded on that because we’re all like masochists. Who the hell runs the 800? Someone who has a personality defect. There’s no one funnier on the planet than the people who make up the 4 x 800-meter relay team. But when we graduate from college, our accounts are so focused on ourselves and people are happier focusing on the things that are going well.
WR: I think we can all agree that running needs a little more laughter.
LG: Don’t you think? Come on. What are we doing out there? We’re just gonna put our shoes on and go for a 20 mile run on a Sunday morning and, like, not laugh? What is this life we are living?
LG: I’m not someone who’s good at impressions, so I don’t know that I could ever cross that line. I can do lip sync like I’ve been doing, but I don’t think I could ever try and do impressions. I would botch them all. The announcer ones are very fun, but if you have any ideas, I’m always open.
I have a skit I’m writing, on the different running podcast hosts. That should be pretty good. That will be in a couple of weeks.
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WR: Ultimately, what’s your hope? Just to make everybody laugh?
LG: I’m hoping people find humor in it. I would love to give back to the running world in some capacity. It’s been such a constant in my life. It’s been this interesting reflection on what I can offer. What I would love to see is not a ton of new followers, but a high quality of followers. People who are just ready to laugh and have a good time with running. I want to keep doing brand work, I love speaking in front of people, so I am excited to see where this takes me. I have a couple of gigs lined up filming running retreats, so I won’t be in front of the camera. I love the balance.
The whole social media world is all made up and everyone’s just trying to keep up with one another. Every month there’s a new thing that everyone scrambles to keep up with. Whatever. We’re just out here creating, throwing a bunch of things at the wall to see what sticks. I’m here for it. I think it’s so funny. And there’s something very much missing from the running world and I think even the most intense, professional runners could admit that there should be more humor. You can’t be relatable without humor. You can’t be relatable without laughing about the fact that you almost sh*t your pants on your long run.
All of these beautiful running shots in the mountains? I’ve seen enough. Do I believe that the person was running a six-minute mile up and down a cliff on Mont Blanc? No. I don’t believe it. Like all the content coming out of UTMB was so funny. Everyone is just sprinting around these trails in the Alps? Even Des is like, “I don’t know, guys. I was hiking up those rocks.” Thank you, Des.