David Rabbitborough's A to Z of Australian Species

 

THE RUNNER

The Runner, sometimes known as the Jogger, the Exerciser, or the Maniac is one of the most common sights on Australia's highways and by-ways. These elegant bipeds can frequently be seen running along with their odd staggering gait on the grassy verge beside roadways.

Their colouring varies enormously, from white to blue to yellow often with stripes even on their feet which themselves are remarkable, having been adapted especially. They have broad flat rubbery soles often with grooves and suction pads across the bottom. Since these grooves and pads become easily clogged, the runner has developed particularly sharp eyesight with which it scans the ground as it runs along, searching for the droppings of animals such as dogs which may pose a hazard. Dogs are indeed the natural enemy of the runner, as are magpies and Kenworth trucks.

Runners are quite tame and it is not uncommon to see great herds of them panting round the streets quite close to the city centre. They are easy to capture and many are held in special zoos called gymnasiums where they run on special machines but this is generally believed to be cruel as the creatures are happiest outdoors. Over the last few years there has been some puzzlement as to why their numbers were increasing since we know that their constant exercise renders them almost incapable of breeding.

It's now known that runners are not born but metamorphose from another species called the common slob a sluglike creature that seems to become infected with some sort of virus which causes it to take to the roads.

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