Sunday, May 15, 2016

The running joke

If you hadn't already noticed, you will begin to see us now, all decked out in our phosphorescent shirts and swiftest shoes, traipsing over hill and dale, even in the driving rain.

You can't fathom how much we've planned this excursion even as we protest that we haven't. We've traversed this course in our dreams ... Or more likely, instead of sleeping. We've considered every little thing from what rests on the tops of our heads to what cradles the tips of our toes.  We know exactly how much compression we have in our socks.

Wave as you go by, but please, not with your middle fingers. We can't help ourselves.

Race days are upon us, and we are desperate to get in our mileage. We're not trying to ruin your commute.

On Saturdays all through the winter, some of us have dragged ourselves out of bed at six a.m., laced up our sneakers and picked a destination. Five miles here. Ten miles there. Lather. Rest. Repeat. We called it maintenance.

Back then we were only serious, not seriously obsessed.

We weren't what we'd call diligent, no matter what we told you.

There was always a time (or three) when we just stepped outside for a moment, turned around and went back into the warmth.

But each passing day, our numbers multiply, and we're starting to talk shop.

"Are you a pronator or a supinator? Are you working on a forefoot landing? Have you tried a foam roller?"

We happily take questions, but shhh shhh: don't ask us how the "jogging" is going. Our answers might not be civil.

Our non-running significant others laugh as they putter around the house with their second cuppa. We've tried to make converts of them.

They put up with us and our driving forces, but they can't help but make comments:

"When I want to go 13 miles I get into a car ...."

They understand our degrees of insanity.

Every Spring our obsessive-compulsive disorders come roaring back from their winter hibernations. Fueled almost entirely by gadgets that track us whether we are awake or asleep.

They plant ideas into our heads about how far we should go and how fast. They remind us via email that last year we were better, faster.

We hate them as much as we can't live without them.

We pray to the god of muscle strains to pass over our houses, as evidenced by our Google search histories:

"To stretch or not to stretch, that is the question."

The results aren't definitive no matter what you've read online. New York Times says ... Might as well give the Giant 8 Ball a shake.

We try to step lightly. Lean forward. Pump our arms at our sides. Careful not to cross our meridians.

At the coffee shop where we gather later to super-charge our running highs with caffeine, we talk about our plans with others we know by pace.

There's always someone selling us something that money can't buy. Some of it sounding off limits in polite company.

Tempo Run. Hill Repeats. Fartlek.

"Have you heard about the 4:1? It's not the latest model -- that would be the 15:15 -- but it's a solid choice if you are going to walk any of your intervals."

We make jokes about ourselves and our pronouncements.

Especially during the low moments.

The muscle pulls. The shin splints. The traveling aches and pains that we all fear will not only sideline us but cause our early retirements.

We lose count of how many times we decide to quit this thing called running before it quits us.

"I'm giving up racing," we've all uttered ad nauseam, only to be lured back mid-sentence by an upcoming entry deadline and a free t-shirt.

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