The running industry is booming, and it seems like these days, running 26.2 miles is no big deal. The number of people running ultra-marathons has nearly quadrupled in the past decade, so for some competitors, even these longer-distance races aren’t challenging enough. For Experience, Brown reports on the rise of quirky and extreme running trends, and how some people, looking to stand out or do something different, find their niche. Beekeeper Farai Chinomwe runs backwards. Moshe Lederfien races while balancing a pineapple on his head. “The motives of these chain-smoking, backwards-moving, produce-aisle-masquerading runners are diverse,” writes Brown, “but weird running’s raisons d’ȇtre tend to exist at the intersection of personal growth and public spectacle.” This is a light and breezy read on how runners up their game and transform the act of running into something else entirely.

To date, Lederfien estimates he’s run about 40 marathons balancing the pineapple, including both New York and Berlin this year. (“Now training with watermelon,” reads his Instagram bio.) He says he finds a spiritual purpose in this kind of running. “It is my duty as a Jew to find balance in this life,” he says. “As a human being I want to be delighted, I want to experience joy. But okay, you also cannot lose balance.”

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.