Running is starting to become easier for me. Maybe it’s that I’m getting healthier as I get older. Or maybe it’s that I’m scared.
Scared of what?
Mortality. I’m “runnin’ from the devil”, perhaps. You get older you get closer to the big sleep. It’s inevitable. It’s gonna happen. “I’m still relatively young. I’ve got plenty of time left”, said the guy that died at 46-years old of a brain aneurysm. It doesn’t matter how old you are. The man in the bright nightgown could be anywhere. Maybe in that plate of pasta you’re eating too fast, or in an 18-wheeler barreling around the corner that’s slowly creeping into your lane. He could be with that guy in the camouflage onesie with an assault rifle flung over his shoulder walking into the bagel shop you’re getting breakfast in. That knock on the door, that tick in your chest, that twinge in your head; it could mean curtains when you least expect it.
So I’ll keep on running.
Maybe I’m running from myself. Maybe I’m running from someone I was a long time ago that I’ve long since divorced myself from. That guy that didn’t think about things like pre-hypertension, cholesterol levels, and hangovers. That guy that could care a less about credit scores, financial stability, and principal interest. He’s that guy that thought college tuitions, “sweet sixteens”, and high school graduations were a lifetime away. He’s that dude that robbed Peter to pay Paul, only to end up cheating Paul out of that money in a shell game and paid Peter back; but only half of it. He’s that dumbass that couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
I’ll lace up and run another lap then.
It could be that I just want to be fit. Running was never an easy thing for me. As a boy in Husky jeans and too tight of t-shirts I was the last one to finish the mile(besides that kid with the limp and lazy eye; though he usually beat me as well.) It didn’t help I had asthma. The wheezing and coughing never made for a triumphant finish. I was the guy that the gym coach was relieved to see he was alive at the end of that 16 minute mile. “Glad you made it back Hub. I’ll tell the paramedics you’re okay.” As I got older the asthma subsided(except for run-ins with cats and dust), but the fear in running remained. “I’ll walk. It’s not so hard on the joints. That’s what my grandma tells me.” I was a 14-year old curmudgeon. Running seemed like this goal I’d never achieve. I’d have dreams of jogging. It felt invigorating, running in my dreams. I got quite a workout running down the freeway with the Hamburgler and Jean Valjean as we headed to some unknown destination on Tralfamadore. But, as soon as I woke up I’d decide to hold off. That has changed. At ten years old, the tightness in the chest and the pained staccato breaths were worrisome and cause for panic. What are they now?
I don’t run the entire time I’m out. Actually, just a half mile to a mile at a time. I’m not killing myself. This isn’t a race. It’s trying to not drop dead of a heart attack at 50- years old, not become Adonis. Or Atlas. Or Ryan Gosling. Or even a tight Ed Harris. I’m mixing and matching. Run a little, walk a lot. Run a little, walk some more. I’ve seen the effects of long distance running on the human body over time. For the last 10 years I’ve seen my dad be rebuilt like a Midwestern Humpty Dumpty. He ran regulary through most of my childhood. Now he’s just running(walking slowly) to the orthopedic surgeon. An ankle surgery here, a knee surgery there. Maybe an Achilles heel for good measure. My brother got on the running kick a few years ago. He started out jogging in the neighborhood, then he worked his way out of the neighborhood and onto county roads. I thought “Good for him.” Then I’d see him and he’d have knee braces on. Then ankle braces. Then I’d see him less and less. Then nothing. It’s that “all or nothing” thing. Maybe he was working towards permanent retirement from physical activity and running was the key to that.
“How do I completely destroy every limb, tendon, and joint in my body in less than a month?”
“Just start running, fatboy.”
Nah. That won’t be me. Running is just part of a balanced exercise diet. It’s merely a course in a long, sweaty, breathless meal. It’s the hot tamales sprint before the cool sangria stroll, or something like that. For many, exercise and running is the gateway to some fit and lean goal. For me it’s many things, but not really that. It’s not self-absorption or vanity that drives me to put one foot in front of the other in quick succession. It’s really just Darwinism in cross trainers. Survival of the fittest, literally. You see, when that zombie apocalypse hits I don’t want to be the guy consumed by a group of slow, trotting, decomposing walkers. I want to be the guy sprinting through the mall parking lot and making his way inside, past the Orange Julius stand and the DeBrand chocolate shop. I want to be the old guy jogging through the neighborhood with an Ensure in one hand and a AARP card in the other, taking his grandkids to go see some inappropriate movie their parents surely wouldn’t approve of. I don’t want to get winded at 75 years old while I tie my New Balance.
That’s really all I want out of running.