Monday, February 9, 2015

And Now for a “Change of Pace” (And Other Bad Running Puns)

I thought today I’d take a break from the “Mommy Posts” and write about another love of my life: running.

Never fear, loyal readers. I won’t be straying too far off my usual writing path. I've established myself as a bit of a ranter, so let’s keep that going, shall we? I’d hate to disappoint what little following I've actually managed to garner. Besides, my writing and running paths tend to converge quite frequently, as I often get ideas while I’m—quite literally—on the run.

Like most things in life, runners can’t be lumped into one category (unless that category is "badass," but that's not what I'm getting at here). There are different “types” of runners: social butterflies; compulsive Garmin-checkers; Zen, one-with-nature, barefoot-in-the-woods hippie types. I tend to be a loner when it comes to running (unless I’ve got my kids with me, but they’re just along for the ride), and today I was reminded of one of the primary reasons why: the irrationally, annoyingly competitive nature of human beings.

I basically despise working out in highly populated areas. And when it comes to running, I consider a route that takes me past someone watering his lawn as “highly populated.” I know, I know: I really need to work on my misanthropic intolerance of harmless human beings, especially those just going about their daily business. It’s probably not fair—or becoming—of me to be irritated by someone simply because he exists.

Anyway, I’m veering slightly off-course (another lame pun; I’m going to be losing my audience here if I don’t knock it off soon). Let’s get back to the whole “competitive” thing I initially brought up. Sometimes (like today), the boys and I will be out running and find ourselves passing other people (mostly of the “harmless” variety I mentioned earlier) engaged in similar physical activity. I take no issue with this; I don’t own the roads in our neighborhood. Although I prefer to run where it’s deserted, I’m not so egomaniacal to really think that people should stay indoors on an abnormally beautiful February day (for a full weather report, see below) in order to accommodate my introvertism. The thing that gets under my skin (surprising, since most of my pores are engaged in sweating things out, not taking things in) is the fact that about 75% of these people ask The Annoyingly Competitive Question (TACQ): “How far are you going?”

Skip to around 1:06. Like, literally. In FEBRUARY. Texas is crazy.
[via YouTube]

First of all, I never have a real answer to TACQ (pronounced “talk,” because apparently people would rather do that than just run). Most of the time, I don’t know “how far” we’re going. We typically just run until I don’t feel like running anymore (luckily the boys seem to enjoy it almost as much as I do, or—at least—they never complain). I also never measure our routes or calculate our pace or distance. If you ask me, it kind of sucks the fun out of running. For me, applying the “numbers” mindset to running just doesn't add up (sorry, couldn't resist). I just don’t get it. Is it like filing your taxes? Like, people need to know exactly how many miles they’re paying now, so they can calculate what they’ll get back in Krispy Kremes later? No thank you. I run to get away from that kind of thinking.

Secondly, my annoyance stems not so much from the fact that a fellow runner is acknowledging my presence or effort (I've been known to exchange the occasional “You go girl!” or “Nice job!” with other pavement-pounders), but by the sense that said runner is trying to justify being passed by a chick with a double stroller. It’s like, if he can tell himself, “Well, she may be running faster, but I’m running farther,” then—and only then—the apparent disparity between our respective speeds is acceptable. Frequently, once I've passed the person, I can’t help feeling like he’s chasing me down, following the exact (often erratic, in an attempt to “lose him”) route that I’m taking, sporadically closing and then widening the gap between us, usually with short-lived bursts of speed. Maybe it’s just my paranoid brain jumping to conclusions, or maybe he’s doing some wacky sprint workout, but it’s happened enough that I've noticed a definite pattern. I don’t particularly enjoy feeling like this when I’m trying to run:

Although I have to admit, it'd be pretty cool if my feet smoked like that.
[via YouTube]

Here’s the thing: When someone passes me on the roads while I’m running, I really don’t care; unless, of course, it’s a driving-way-too-fast-in-a-suburban-area, not-slowing-down-near-a-stroller-with-kids-in-it, check-out-my-pimped-out-rims truck. Those type get the courtesy of my pointing out how dumb they are—with a very specific finger. I never really appreciated the phrase, “Run like you stole something,” because running under the pretense of being chased only makes me tense up and run less efficiently. Even when I’m in a race—where playing the intermittent roles of Passer and Passee is unavoidable—I have to tune out my surrounding and go inside myself (figuratively, not like this). Maybe it’s not like that for the majority of the running population, and some people are fueled by the “thrill of the chase,” but I absolutely hate it. The only way running under this notion might have a positive effect on my speed is if I run “like I stole Shalane Flanagan’s legs.” Even then, I don’t think it’d really work if I ran like I stole them; only if I actually did.

Running is one of the few “selfish” indulgences I allow myself, and I don’t want to waste my time on the road engaged in petty—and, I admit, maybe sometimes imaginary—competitions with random strangers. I don’t want to be followed, or questioned, or TACQ'ed, or raced. The only person I enjoy competing against when I run is myself. If that makes me anti-slow-cial, so be it.

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