Joe Lavin

September 28, 2004

Running Commentary

I can't exactly say that I enjoy running, but whenever I get around to exercising, jogging tends to be my choice. There are many reasons. First, it's simple. At least, in the summer you don't have to go anywhere special to do it. It's cheap. Unless you're a fanatic, you don't really need to buy any special equipment. And, if you don't have a car like me, it's even a little adventurous. You can run in different directions each time and explore nearby neighborhoods that you normally would never see. "Hey, didn't the mob used to run this neighborhood?" you can think to yourself while quickly picking up your pace.

Perhaps I should be a little more selective about the neighborhoods in which I run, though it was actually near my apartment where I had my most annoying jogging experience. It was two years ago, and I was a running along a city street -- albeit slowly -- when a teenager leaned from a passing jeep to yell, "Keep jogging, Tubby!"

Now, I know I'm not exactly the most svelte guy around, but really I'm not quite ready to answer to the name "Tubby." I'm 5-10 and 195 pounds. (Okay, maybe 200.) I admit that I have something of a gut, but still ... Tubby? I prefer to think I'm at least a couple dozen large pizzas with extra cheese and pepperoni away from that particular moniker.

Of course, it took me a few seconds to react. Before I had the presence of mind to give the little punk the finger, the jeep had passed by, and the only thing to flip off was a parking meter. There was nothing to do but to continue running, but one thing is for sure: I have never run faster than I did during those next fifteen minutes. There is seldom anything quite so motivating as an insult from a complete stranger. I glided down sidewalks, all while visualizing the ways in which I wish I had reacted. (That the best I could come up with was throwing my water bottle at him shows how depressingly tame I really am.)

Luckily, that is about the worst that has happened to me while jogging. I've been able to avoid any serious injuries, though I haven't been able to avoid making a fool of myself, especially this weekend when I managed to trip over a sidewalk. Take it from me. There are few things less dignified than taking a belly flop on the sidewalk. I'm just thankful that that teenager wasn't around. At that moment, I don't think I could have handled being called a beached whale.

Thankfully, there were only a handful of people around to see my moment of indignity, though one couple was about to help me up when I quickly jumped from the ground proclaiming myself to be okay. "No, don't worry, I'm fine," I said as cheerfully as one can after scraping one's elbow across the sidewalk. There was no need to prolong the embarrassment, I thought as I practically shooed them away.

In the end, my elbow was badly scraped, but I was okay. I merely hobbled home, and bandaged my wound after treating it with some Chivas Regal Scotch. Hey, what can I say? I was out of rubbing alcohol, and it seemed like the manly thing to do. Besides, I don't really drink much, so I might as well do something useful with all the liquor that people have brought to my apartment for parties.

Despite all this, running has been mostly good for me. Once, I even ran a 5K road race, which is something I never thought I would do. Even when I first got excited about running, I never had any intention of running a race. After all, I care more about distance than speed. I've always found it disconcerting when I'm chugging along, minding my own business, and some other runner just sprints past me. In a race, I figured that sort of thing would happen more often.

And then there was the timing. For some reason, most road races are held in the morning. The one I entered was at nine o'clock on a Saturday morning, a time when you will normally find me in bed sound asleep. Until then, about the only running before noon I had ever done was to catch the bus to work, so it was all quite a shock to my system.

It was an even greater shock to be surrounded with such enthusiastic morning people. I have never seen such energy. Before the race, there was all this elaborate stretching and jumping about, while I struggled desperately just to stay awake. "This is going to be fun," one woman kept telling her friend. Another confessed that he was not really a "conditioned runner." "I only run more than seven miles once a week," he told his friend with a touch of guilt. "The rest of the time, I only run three miles." I decided right then to let him pass me on the walk to the start line. There was no sense delaying the inevitable.

In the end, I signed up for the race mainly for the novelty. Running a road race on a Saturday morning seemed to be such a strange and bewildering concept that I just couldn’t pass it up.

How did I do? you ask. Well, not bad at all! Let's just say that I managed to finish well ahead of the winner in the Women-Over-Sixty division. I'm thinking of running another race soon, but with success like that maybe I won't bother. After accomplishing so much, it's probably time for me to retire from racing.

©2004 Joe Lavin

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