This is an excerpt from I Run, Therefore I Am--Nuts! by Bob Schwartz.
Let’s proudly admit it. Let’s enthusiastically welcome it with open, sweaty arms, ugly toenails, and firm hamstrings. We runners are indeed different! We’re the ones who have been known to pour sport drinks on our Corn Flakes and take lengthy showers in our new Gore-Tex running suit to test its water-resistant capabilities. What do you mean, you haven’t done that? Well, okay. How about passing out race T-shirts on Halloween from your overabundant collection, along with bite-size energy bars, inspirational athletic quotes, mini-crew socks, and pocket-size pace charts? No?
Hmmm. Well, maybe I am a tad bit more peculiar. All right. How about going agog over the latest edition of your running magazine containing a review of the newest line of training shoes? Aha! You’ve got to admit that puts your heart rate monitor number into your target zone.
You enjoy basking in the radiant glow of a kaleidoscope of race application forms at the local running store. You delight in refueling on a bruised banana, a half-frozen raisin bagel, and lukewarm electrolyte replacement drink at the postrace refreshment table. In a torrential downpour. At 8:00 on Sunday morning.
These are your stories, to make you laugh about interval training, find the joy in glycogen depletion, and chuckle at your never-ending search to locate your lactate threshold. It’s a funny look at all the peculiarities, quirks, and lovely obsessions of those of us whose menu highlight is a new flavor of energy gel, who live for the feel of crusty sweat, and who wear blisters like badges
I remember, from years ago, the look of a rather portly gentleman who, although perhaps not having run more than six yards in the last 20 years, was kind enough to offer his services as a volunteer at the end of a marathon. You know the ones who are there when you cross the finish line and toss that little blanket of aluminum foil around you for warmth and you feel like a giant piece of shake and bake.
I was pale and doing the lactic acid shuffle while wearing the pained expression of having run the last six miles in the lovely abyss of severe everything depletion. He cautiously approached me with a look of profound disbelief and was undoubtedly questioning the fact that one actually pays a registration fee to participate in this apparent masochism. As I stumbled toward him I couldn’t help but joke a little. I looked up at him with a pained expression and harnessed the energy to mutter, “I’m signed up for another marathon next weekend so I was holding back a little bit with this one.”
I then lay down on the pavement and he looked at me wondering if I’d lost all semblance of sanity and asked, “You really enjoy this?” Ah, yes. The cardinal mistake of a non-runner. Looking for sound logic from someone who returns from a freezing cold winter run with ice-covered eyelashes, frigid jaws, and a warped, half-cocked arctic smile that mutters through frozen lips, “Rrrrat Rrrras Frrrun.”
Rational thought from someone who sleeps with his race number pinned to his shirt for fear he’ll forget it in the morning? Someone who gets up at 5:00 a.m. to run 20 miles on a Sunday morning, but can’t ever seem to conjure enough energy to get across the family room floor and answer the phone before the eighth ring? Someone preoccupied, before the start of a race, by the crucial issue of whether the right amount of Vaseline was placed on potential chafing areas? You want solid logic from all that?
I then looked at my inquisitive race volunteer and provided him with a kind of deranged look and crazy crooked grin. He took a cautious step back from me at that point. I raised my arm
with considerable effort and pointed to the camera taking personal photographs of each runner crossing the finish line. I then summoned enough strength to launch into my best Barbra Streisand impression, singing the theme from The Way We Were (with a few modified lyrics):
“Memories light the corners of my mind . . .
If we had the chance to run it all again
Tell me would we—’You bet’—could we—’Not right now’. . .
What’s too painful to remember from the race
We’re so thankful we forget!”
As I broke into chorus, my fellow runners began looking at me and wondering just what the heck I’d carbo-loaded on. Luckily for all, I stopped short of doing a song and dance number from Funny Girl. Didn’t quite have the capillary capacity and remaining stamina for that one.
But that was indeed the answer to the inquiry posed by my dubious race volunteer. Of course we enjoy it! We enjoy the memories. The experience. The feelings. From training runs, to races, to running with friends, to going solo in the pouring rain. It’s all very rational, at least to us.
If you also can’t find humor in tender quadriceps after a marathon, the enervated feeling after a difficult run, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and the challenge of running in a wind chill factor of 40 below—well then, loosen up a little!
The point is, no matter what the circumstances, no matter if we’re competitive racers or strictly run-for-funners, we all love it. We keep coming back for our faithful fix. We continue to allow it to occupy our thoughts. We keep thinking, how, in the name of Joan Benoit Samuelson, can somebody not enjoy this sport?
To us, it’s not really exercise. It’s life, and a feeling on which we’re hooked. This book is a collection of humorous essays on many topics unique to us, the runners. From the intricate art of drinking from paper cups while on the run, to the equitable concept of virtual training miles, to the Name That Ailment game
show, to Kenyan Water Aerobics, to the unique talents of the Matrix Man of Running Performance, it’s a comical examination of a sport that is near and dear to our well-conditioned hearts.
There are funny stories that you’ll be able to relate to, whether you’re usually in the middle of the pack, up near the front of the pack, or so far from any semblance of a pack you’re wondering if everyone went home already.
Whether 23 miles or 3 miles is your definition of a long run, whether you’re trying to break five hours for a marathon or five minutes for a mile, it’s all the same. Running humor is a universal concept. Hey, what’s funny for the gazelle is also funny for the plodder.
For those that love the aromatic smell of perspiration in the morning, who enjoy the exhilaration of exhaustion, who drink solely from squirt bottles, whose wardrobe is over half-filled with clothes having reflective fabric—this book’s for you. Yes, we’re different. And quite thankful for it.
Humor on the run. What a combination. I think I hear Ms. Streisand singing again. “So it’s the laughter. . . .” Yes, it is. The laughter of the long distance runner.
Read more from I Run, Therefore I Am--Nuts! by Bob Schwartz.