On the complex joys of running.
The alarm goes off at four-thirty AM. Plenty of intelligent, resourceful people despise mornings, but four-thirty hurts less than one might expect; numbing, in a merciful way. Maybe most of the nervous system is still asleep. The hours are arguable not even within the morning concept.
Some start the day at this ungodly hour to squeeze into funky-smelling spandex, sweat suit and sneakers. Sane citizens are still in bed, leaving the cold and dark streets to be ruled by the garbage trucks – and the runners.
"Left to natural selection, I would be hunted down and eaten by some carnivorous beast, my genetic instincts being to sit perfectly still by the campfire and chip calendar marks in a rune stone."
Five AM on a Tuesday, the local gym at Prince Street, Flushing, counts exactly four warm bodies; the slit-eyed, sleepy guy at the front desk, the Hispanic with the vacuum cleaner, and an early bird lifting weights. Yours sincerely would be over by the treadmills, sucking hard on a pre-workout juice mixed from powder. The powder came with a lot of text that looks like boring read. Whatevah. You know it's strong stuff when the box is the size of a face lotion container and a full scoop looks like a dose of cocaine. At purchase, you feel tempted to make extra-sure that the point really is to mix the powder with water and not to snort it off a flat surface. When the juice kicks in, it evokes a sensation of your body being covered with high-sensitive flimmer hairs, and the brain is firing up all twelve cylinders. A bit unsettling, but so what? If you want to be a part of the funky-smelling people with running shoes, there’s no way back. Just Do It.
Personally, I have no qualms making shameless use of every cheating trick modern technology can pull for my physical build-up; iPods, treadmills, energy drinks, gel pads … If I was left to natural selection, I would be hunted down and eaten by some carnivorous beast, my genetic instincts being to sit perfectly still by the campfire and chip calendar marks in a rune stone. Now, thanks to the wonderful world of fitness industry, I’m in the race along with the alphas.
"My morning run has the worthy purpose of not making a complete ass of myself in the races. And I’m very serious about my goal."
My heart beats fast and arrhythmic when I declare that I’m a freshman New York Road Runner. Yes, yes, I am one of Them. I run races that have ridiculously long names, and I pay hard cash to be rewarded with the taste own my own bloody lung tissue and a t-shirt.
One would be fair to ask the good reason for all this self-inflicted strain. Or as the song goes: “Why do they all act like they run for their lives? The world war ended in nineteen-forty-five!” The grounds for running are constructed, of course, due to a day-to-day shortage of carnivorous beasts and world wars. Fitness and Personal Challenge have replaced Necessity and Common Sense. One could, by a stretch, claim that one is running for cancer, kids and homeless critters, but no one really is. My morning run has the worthy purpose of not making a complete ass of myself in the races. And I’m very serious about my goal.
Back from the gym, NY1 greets the city with the weekend weather report, which is less than encouraging; chilly, with wind and rain. Three reporters are laughing their socks off, reflecting on the scenario of thousands of skin-soaked, bone-chilled road runners sloshing trough the New York Marathon. With pudgy indoor bodies, the reporters cluck merrily away under the warm studio lamps like chickens in a poultry hatchery. Toes curl and uncurl in my funky-smelling sneakers. For a road runner, there is no way back. Just Do It.
(First published 2010)
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