Recently, I participated in the following exchange at a sporting goods store in Harrisburg.
Me to young girl working behind the counter: Do you have Gu?
Young girl: What? Goo?
Me: Do you have Gu or, um, Clif Shots?
Young girl: Shots? (I could almost see the thought bubble over her head, like in a cartoon, with a tequila bottle and a shot glass next to it, maybe sitting in a sticky pool of mysterious goo.)
Me (now rather frustrated): No, not goo - you know, energy gels. For running. Gu.
Young girl: Oh, those things in packets? No, we had a box but it expired so we threw it out.
That, in a nutshell, is what it's like doing a specialized activity in the heart of Pennsylvania. I'd made a special trip to this local chain sporting goods store in Harrisburg because I was pretty sure that the smaller stores in my hometown wouldn't have anything specialized. I'd once made a trip in my town to the sporting store for running socks, but the closest they had were "cotton" socks for working out.
In my previous life - when I didn't get the chance to run alongside gorgeous cornfields after stepping out my front door - there was a running store 5 blocks from me. And another running store 10 minutes away. And another running store 25 minutes away. Filled with dozens of pairs of running shoes and knowledgeable staff who knew about which shoe to give an over-pronator with well-defined arches and plenty of options for fuel from gels to chews to bars.
But now, running - and all the gear, the shoes, the clothes, the energy gels - that accompany this sport I've fallen in love with - is a unique pastime, not well understood or supported off the beaten path. Trade-off: no running stores, but running with corn. Not bad, really.