As spring has started to show its colors and the white bellyfish ghosts of winter have slowly but surely been awakened from hibernation, outdoor door activities are finally resuming. And thank goodness the cabin fever made everyone angry. Even the ants themselves were becoming distressed. Of course, while warm temperatures are a definite positive after the winter deluge, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: allergy season. Everyone’s nose leaks like the Exxon Valdez. You walk into a classroom, you are treated to a symphony of Kleenex horns. We’re like DC’s Poison Ivy – our bloodstream is three quarters of Zyrtec’s.
But for runners around the world, an itchy nose is just a wound of the flesh. Hell, they’ll come out in twenty-degree negative weather in those ultra-tall 1960s basketball shorts. “Oh, that’s just a cinch…” They come back from their ten thousand, frozen in a block of ice like the squirrel from “Ice Age”, after being sprayed by Mr. Freeze …
Running is a curious thing. Just ask JRR Tolkien – half of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was just a superfluous description of Frodo and Sam traveling through Middle-earth. Running for exercise… for some it is a beloved companion; to the others, complete and total anathema. It’s like Tom Brady; you either love him or hate him. As a runner myself, I know the dichotomy all too well. So, for those who are thinking of running as a small, benign hobby akin to collecting stamps or eating bugs, I pray this article drastically reverses those patterns.
It all starts at the shoe store. It’s the foot in the door, the drug of entry. First off the guy brings you down the Asics aisle – maybe he thinks you’re shopping for your grandpa. You try them on, you walk around like you’ve just stepped out of a vortex tunnel… use the little floor mirror to assess the design, see what it looks like from your cat’s point of view… so they look adapt. What is that? Two hundred slaps? Oh, does he have glider wing technology? Anti-gravity soles? Yeah, sure, that’s two hundred dollars?
And then there are the running socks. The sellers act as if the wool came from Abraham’s sheep in Genesis. Hand-woven, even, by Sister Jean de Loyola. For the price, they’d definitely do better to be laced up with something from Miracle Max’s hut in “The Princess Bride.”
Armed for war, you go out, start running. After the first mile you are already starting to question everything. Mark Twain once said that worrying is like paying off debt you don’t owe – so is running. You donate a lung that no one needs. Eating snails for fun doesn’t sound so bad as a hobby anymore.
But then the torture ends, and the “runner’s high” hits, and the endorphins tango. Still, man you’re hurting. So you are looking for a foam roller. Runners – they can’t get enough. If you’re really looking to make a racket, just rent a big steamroller, sit at the finish line of a marathon, and wait for the money to arrive.
Chocolate milk also comes to mind for post-workout necessities. What is that? What’s wrong with chocolate milk? Everyone thinks it’s like ambrosia – will bring immortality to those who consume it. What, you think a pint will suddenly make you pump iron like Mark Wahlberg?
But chocolate milk on its own does not turn you off. You are hungry. See, when you get into the habit of running, you think you have Andre the Giant’s diet – you’re invincible. You are invited to Immortality Field Resort in “Rick and Morty”. You can reduce five stacks at IHOP, no problem.
Tolerance builds up and soon you are running five days a week, no sweat. When I run, I like to think I look like Sonic the Hedgehog or The Flash, you know, breaking the sound barrier and everything… actually, I look like Joe Biden going up the stairs of Air Force One. To make it worse, on rainy days the campus sidewalk looks like the Dagobah Swamp in “Empire Strikes Back”. Seriously, you need a canoe just to get from Meredith to FAC.
As we discussed earlier, there are those runners who do miles in the rain or shine, snow or derecho. These are the same rammers who come out at 11 p.m., run the streets in a hi-vis yellow reflective safety vest and put on the high beams, look like a lost coal miner … I mean, in that costume , they could jut through the construction site of an alien hospital in Area 51 and no one would peek. Why 11 at night, however? Because during the day the neighbors are outside. And you know what that means.
The smile of the “good neighbor”.
I hate when people give you that forced squint. You know the one. Scrunch their faces like they’ve just stepped on a lego… they walk by – it’s only courteous to reciprocate. When I was a kid my parents warned me that if I met my eyes for too long they would get stuck that way. Those miserable squint – I think they should be stuck that way. You know, freeze them in carbonite with the expression on their face. Then place them on a screen right in the middle of the town square with a message engraved on the base of the monument: “It’s not a smile.” When you run, however, this squint – or rather this wave – there is no need to display this false recognition anymore. It’s liberating. You are going too fast, you don’t have time to make gestures. It’s like when you are walking on the sidewalk and a car is passing, probably with someone in it, you know, but all you hear is “EEEEE…” This is what the passage looks like. a neighbor running.
For real city runners, the relays are there. The 5k seems to be a popular event. Right before the 5 km you have all kinds of characters flanking the start line. Most notably, there are the Fifty Year Old Dads, dressed as if they were heading straight for a cast for “Justice League 4” after the race. They do all kinds of unidentifiable stretching, you know, like birds doing a mating dance or something. They wear one of those headbands like Mark Knopfler …
Don’t blame anyone, but – in my experience runners, sorry to say, often don’t find time to wash their hands. They have to live life at a faster pace; I do not know. They’re out there on the course, doing the farmer’s shot, getting some distance with the hock … if given the choice between shaking hands with a cross-country runner or from the booger dude Mucinex, I should go with the latter.
Then there are the athletics events. The cushy streams of road runners are absent. Track stars have spikes. Sharp as a butcher’s knife. I’d rather be hit by a morning star than grazed by one of these studs. No kidding, I could easily see a track event going down in a fight at the Roman Coliseum. It’s easy to see why: A, the track smells like a 1960s car store, so initially the smells are already unpleasant. And B, psychologists say heat increases aggression levels. It always seems to be hot on the trail no matter what time of year it is. On one of those hot days in the Sahara, I feel like the guy who pulls the starting pistol is going to charge the chamber for real and shoot it at the first thing that moves.
Which might not end well.
Maybe, then, the relays should have a cheesy event. You know, like the one they host in the UK, chasing a block of cheese down a hill? You think about it, it basically satisfies all the requirements of a sport: it’s physically demanding, and at the end of the game, you consume more dairy products. And apart from a few broken limbs, there is virtually no risk.