Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dig: Running

Look at me! Two positive posts in a row! For some reason we've had a lot of sunshine lately so maybe that's perked me up. Normally, this time of year is pretty dreary in Grand Haven with lots of snow, short days and general misery so it's way nice to see the sun.

Today's post is brought to you by the sore muscles, sweat and creaking knees that a healthy dose of running brings. I dabbled with running in college in an effort to not balloon to enormous proportions but it was a pretty half-hearted attempt. I was pretty into mountain biking for quite a few years as my main method of burning calories but almost exactly three years ago, I took up running pretty seriously. Putting in ten or fifteen miles a week, coupled with the Subway diet (cheese-less sandwiches with low-fat dressing and baked chips instead of fried) took about 15 lbs. off my fat little body. Even better, I didn't hate it. I was wearing the wrong shoes and was doing the old school cotton t-shirt thing but I've come a long way since then. The next summer I did a few 5k's and kept up the routine of running a few times a week. I got faster with each race and I became a "runner" at some point along the way. I've run two 25k's (15.5 miles) and a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and now I'm planning to do the Chicago Marathon on October 22. So I dig running.

I'm sure you're thinking to yourself, "This dude is fucked in the head. Running sucks!" And while it is true that I may be fucked in the head, I don't think that running sucks. And here are a few reasons why:

No one can do it for me. When I get home after my standard 5-mile run (to the first telephone pole past the school and back), I will have done it by myself. Every step of the way was mine. For that matter, I couldn't even coast downhill like when I ride my bike. Same thing goes for when I run 15.5 miles. As much as the cheering and following behind a babe in tight shorts helps, that babe ain't gonna move my legs for me. Certainly, there are plenty of people who run marathons every year but not everybody can or has so when I do I will be part of a pretty small group of people. Completing a challenge like this with no one to do it for you may or may not be important to you, but it is to me and this is my blog so you can just shut up. If I take the time to think about what I'm doing, I can feel pretty good about running a mile in 8 minutes and 41 seconds. A mile. In 8:41. When I'm getting to the end of my run and I'm really in the zone and I'm flying along at much faster than 8:41 per mile, I'm feeling pretty Rocky-esque (you know, like the scene when he runs up the steps to that museum in Philadelphia).

It's good to get the poison out. Most runners feel really good - when they're done. The first few miles are the hardest for me until I get into my aerobic routine. The middle miles are just a groove and the last few miles I'm really humpin' to get it done. The whole way, though, the latte's, Big Macs and chocolate chip cookies are just pouring out of my body. Ever sit next to somebody who was super drunk the night before and you get a contact buzz from the booze coming out of him? Same thing, except you can't get drunk on the McDonald's special sauce. The adrenaline continues to pump for a while after I return home and I feel pretty good about taking the previous 52:38 (a good time for me for 6 miles), to burn calories and clean out my pores instead of watching America's Next Top Model. Besides, there's something about Tyra that bugs me and I can't quite figure out what it is.

Time to myself: For those of you with kids, you know how little time you get to yourself anymore. That was the first thing to go when my daughter was born. (I'm making an assumption that you're holding up your end of the parenting. If you've worked out a deal with your other half where he/she does all the work with the kids, please call my wife.) I have important crap to think about as you are finding out by now: blog topics, dumb-ass people at work, get-rich-quick schemes, etc. and I need quality time to do my ponderin'. What better time than when I'm knocking out a quick 5 mile run? The MP3 player is only there for background noise and I'm happy to say that my little walnut can listen to Kid Rock and compose a blog topic all while putting one foot in front of the other for about 44 minutes. Even though I've created the family's monthly budget on the back of the bulletin at church in days gone by, I feel a little less guilty about doing it while I'm running than while I'm ignoring Henry, my priest.

I'm trying not to be a middle-aged fat-ass: I'm 38. I haven't been scanning the used car ads for a red convertible and I don't dig gold chains, but I'm not really looking forward to being 40. Fortunately, people usually think I'm much younger than I am, but I don't want to be the guy who looks 57 even though he's 42. My stupid friends from college would tell you that I've always been a little thick in the middle and I don't want to have to poke another hole in my belt in an effort to hold on to something I don't have anymore. Mind you, those dumb-asses might think I'm thick in the middle but I'm here to tell you that they're pretty thick in the head! Anyway, running is a way for me to burn off the calories and not let my body turn to a big pile of mush. Certainly, I could cut out the trips to Taco Bell but I'm not quite that committed.

I'm such a running nerd that I now track my miles on-line, have a whole bunch of "technical" shirts, shorts and underwear and I recently subscribed to Runner's World magazine. I'm finding that either you really dig running or you really don't. Plenty of people don't run - most with a legitimate reason like having bad knees - and don't get the whole running thing. When I was a more serious mountain biker (and subscribed to two mountain biking magazines), I never would have considered running. However, in recent years, it seems as though I've gotten older. Not quite sure how that happened, but my body now prefers the aerobic routine of running and my brain prefers the feeling of accomplishment of carting my 38 year-old body across a finish line. And pulling a Burley down a bumpy trail looks a lot like shaken baby syndrome to the nice people at Child Protective Services.

I'm anticipating that I'm going to be a runner for a long time even though I've only been doing it seriously for three years. I'm also thinking that I will get a little faster before the crunching in my knees causes me to slow down. If I want to keep in halfway decent shape, I'll need to keep it up because there are still a lot of value meals with my name on them out there. And even though I'm generally not very competitive with other people, I can still picture the 10 year-old kid who finished just ahead of me in my first 5k and that kind of bugs me. Him and Tyra.

No comments: