A strange affliction seems to have overcome many of my 40-ish friends. It began with vague murmurs about cholesterol and too-snug jeans. Soon, discussion became peppered with talk of morning walks and gym memberships. And suddenly, marathons were being mentioned as casually as lunch plans.
Seemingly overnight, these folks took to wearing expensive Saucony or Asics running shoes and talking about doing the “Peak Performance in Portland” or the “Bellingham Bay.” When they talk about “Leavenworth Oktoberfest,” they aren’t talking about beer-drinking.
When a friend recently posted on her Facebook page, “Just ran 3.5 miles,” I asked, “Who was chasing you?”
I don’t understand running for running’s sake. Now, if you’ve got the ball and are headed to the end zone, I understand. If you’re being chased by rabid wolves, running seems an appropriate response. Ditto, hustling to the door when Nordstrom has a shoe sale. But to intentionally lace up your shoes and take off at a brisk trot when you’re not even “it” – this is a mystery to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of a regular fitness routine. I walk 3 1/4 miles three days a week and I’m at my gym at least twice a week. I used to go more before the darned tax on tanning beds took effect. But when not tanning, I’m working out and riding a bike that does not require helmet-wearing. So, I get the cardiovascular fitness imperative. I even lift weights.
When my sons were comparing biceps recently, I showed off my own “guns.” Sadly, they were unimpressed. “Mom, we’re talking about biceps. You know, the bulge above the arm, not what dangles below.”
I chased that teenager through the house with a rolled-up newspaper. And I caught him. “Dang, I always forget how fast Mom moves when she wants to,” he complained to his laughing brothers.
That’s what I call running with intention. My friend, Jill, has a different running purpose. She’s training for a marathon. When I asked how her most recent run went, she replied, “I cried.”
Yeah. That sounds like fun.
However, Jill expounded at length about the euphoric sensation of the “runner’s high.” Other friends spoke of the spiritual aspects of running. I’m not at all opposed to spirituality or euphoric sensations, so I decided to add a little running to my walking routine.
Actually, I had to. I stepped out into traffic on a major arterial and ran to escape being hit by a school bus. Since I was already running, I continued. I ran an entire block and didn’t break a sweat.
Hey, this isn’t too bad, I thought. I slowed my pace to a steady jog and this when I noticed some parts of my body were jigging while I was jogging. And my heart had begun to pound in a rather uncomfortable way. My knees starting complaining and then suspicious moisture appeared on my forehead. I was sweating! I hate sweating.
I’d now run four blocks with no sign of a “runner’s high.” In addition, I couldn’t seem to coordinate my arms and legs. The fact that I was chewing gum didn’t help. My side started to ache and a drop of sweat dripped into my eye. That really stung and suddenly, just like Jill, I was crying! Of course, my tears did not occur near the end of a 20-mile run, but my motto has always been, if it makes you cry, it can’t be good. It also can’t be euphoric.
As I slowed to a walk, I noticed my legs were rubbery, and instead of walking I was wobbling. In my exhaustion, I thought about hailing a taxi. Then I realized I’d never seen a cab in my north-side neighborhood. And that spiritual connection my friends spoke of? I understood what they meant as I fervently prayed for strength to get home.
I trudged glumly along. The sun disappeared, smothered by ominous gray clouds. Soon, fat raindrops pelted my already damp hair. “Great,” I muttered, as I realized I wasn’t wearing waterproof mascara.
At last, I staggered through my door and collapsed on the sofa. I learned an important lesson that day. Nothing ruins a great walk like running.