What ever should one do when one is awoken by a persnickety feline at quarter after six on a Sunday morning and the wife remains sound asleep? If one has consumed a bountiful meal of cheese, bread, pasta, chocolate, beer, wine and cake the previous evening, why, the obvious solution is to go for a run. Sounds a delightful idea, doesn’t it? To be out in the freshness of a quiet morning, with nothing but nature to accompany you – saturating your lungs with clean, cool air, making your heart race as you pound one sneakered foot in front of the other, feeling the burn in your leg muscles and filling your mind with thoughts of health and renewed energy and vitality. A veritable paradise.
Except that I hate running. Hate it hate it hate it. Loathe it beyond all rational means. Hold contempt for it equal to that of say, brussel sprouts, Kate Hudson movies and Republicans (okay, maybe that’s too much hyperbole.) And for some reason I keep doing it. You read about people who are morbidly obese, recovering drug addicts, cancer survivors or what have you who experience almost religious epiphanies when they first strap on a pair of Nikes and preach at length about the joy of running and how it’s changed their lives. I’ve been running irregularly for about four years now and I’m still waiting for that lightbulb. I think about that when I’m panting along, the sweat is pouring off my brow like Niagara-freaking-Falls and my legs are ten seconds from collapsing into piles of jelly. When am I going to have that moment? When am I going to start to actually like this?
I don’t think it’s a question of would I like it if it were easier. Writing can be excruciatingly painful and we’re still going steady after 30 years. But my ongoing courtship with running feels a bit like picking up a gorgeous woman who is the picture of physical perfection and finding out after dating her for a little while that though the sex might be great, you have absolutely nothing to talk about. Maybe for some people that’s enough. I want more. I want to fall in love with running. I want to smother it with affection and feel the exhilaration of its caresses as we tear up the road together. I would love to look back on my life from years ahead and know that I was able to run at least one marathon, once – if nothing else, getting in shape enough to successfully complete a marathon will probably mean looking back on it from the age of 95 rather than 65. Selfish reason? Perhaps, but I don’t think I know of anyone who runs for the altruistic aspect of it.
I was in a public relations class once and the ice-breaker exercise on the first day involved figuring out what comic character best represented us. I was completely stuck for an answer on that one. When I mentioned it to my wife later that day, she immediately had an answer – Garfield. Which I suppose is pretty accurate. I do love sleeping and lasagna and have been known to cough up the occasional furball. I certainly couldn’t have said The Flash. But I keep hoping that this is going to be the day. As I don the dry-fit shirt and the shorts and lace up the cross-trainers, I say this is it. This will be the day that I’m going to be bounding along with a spring in my step and a song in my heart and everything is going to click. At that moment I will truly become a runner, and my path will lead me to heretofore unimagined heights of fitness, stamina and confidence. I’ll be one of those guys with those inspirational stories of salvation through exercise.
But then the alarm goes off, and I snuggle into my comfy pillow and mutter to myself, “I hate Mondays.”