Several years ago I blogged about my experience of running. I was not being chased by anyone or anything. No, my older brother had come to spend an extended stay with us in our home in Northern Virginia and I had foolishly mentioned to him that I would like to go running with him. You see, he’s a marathon runner among other things and I am self-obsessed. That’s a nice way of saying that ever since I was a teenager I have been trying to find the magic secret to getting myself in shape. Never had a whole lot of luck. So this time, I thought, why not try running. Perhaps it will help me kick my metabolism into gear and I’ll start burning body fat quicker. Because that’s the only thing missing from the Adonis equation, right? Well, big brother kicked my ass that night. My spleen exploded, my heart stopped functioning, and I wet myself. And this was all before I had reached the end of the driveway on our way out. I think we did two miles and I could tell he was just being kind when he said “Hey man, that’s cool. You did good! I’m just gonna’ go out and run another 25 miles but you go shower and all…” By the way, any sentence that starts with “hey man” is always bad news.
Tonight, a mere five years later, I went running again.
What’s going on this time, you ask? Let me clue you in. I have a friend (there’s a shocker), a coworker with whom I became close over the past year since we’ve worked together. From the get-go I was happy to have met the guy because I realized we had so much in common. On top of all that, he’s the only other man in my department at work so even if we hated each other we’d have to bond somehow. But, I actually like the guy. Of course, I came to find out recently that he actually didn’t think we had much in common. This explains the bizarre faces he’d make when I’d drop by his classroom and start to chat up a recent movie or fungal infection. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was teaching Scripture to high school freshmen. Anyway, isn’t that what guys talk about? movies and jock itch? What do I know? I grew up with 8 sisters. Wanna’ talk about absorbency; I’m your guy. I didn’t just write that, did I?
About the time we met I had mentioned to him about how I was trying to get back in shape. Here’s a glimpse at my inner-life for you. I’m ALWAYS trying to get back in shape. He mentioned that he was a personal trainer in college so I asked if he wouldn’t mind training me. His response, somewhat muddled, indicated that he’d rather not take on the challenge. “The thing is,” he said cryptically, “I don’t want to.” Actually it was something more like “I have to wash my hair that year.” Somewhat dejected but not deterred I turned to drink. Yes, gin makes everything better and who are you to judge me?!
And then the chronic and debilitating spinal pain and sciatica I had been suffering for three years intensified. Come the end of February, I was scheduled for immediate surgery and like that I was out of commission for the next five months.
By September we were back at work and this friend of mine was strutting the halls, puffed out chest, and looking like he’d lost quite a few pounds. “What’s your secret?” I asked. Turns out he had simply changed his diet and kicked up his running routine. There it is again. Running. I still don’t get it but if it does the trick (as it clearly had for him) then it’s worth a shot… again. Completely ignoring the fact that he would not train me a year ago I asked if I could go running with him some night. Sadly, he agreed. And he kept me to it. Tried to tell him I had a colonoscopy scheduled for tonight (a complete fabrication as I’m sure they’d do those in the morning) but he wouldn’t let me out of the deal.
After work I came home and got changed. Gone was the shirt and tie, the tweed vest, the suit pants. In their place were Under Armour running shorts and a gray, slightly oversized tee shirt. Hey, if I’m going to look like a fool at least I’m going to look like a million bucks doing it. I met him at the track of a local high school down the street from his house and we began by warming up. I had already committed to swallowing my pride. “Just push through,” I told myself. “In no time you’ll be able to see your abs again.” And then I remembered that I have never seen my abs. My friend and I walked the quarter-mile track and then he stopped. He began to grab his right leg behind his back and stand there, perfectly balanced. “Stretching,” he said. I grabbed my right leg behind my back and hopped like a scalded dog for about five seconds before falling on my face. Then he moved on to some kind of heel stretch. “Are we going to be using our heels a lot?” I asked. I guess that was a dumb question in hindsight.
Moments later he simply said “Let’s hit it” and off we went. For fun he had brought his six year-old son and four year-old daughter along. Turns out that everyone’s athletic in his house. I thought I was maintaining a good pace until the little ones were literally running circles around me and I was only a few yards down the track. Meanwhile their daddy had left me in the dust, completed several laps, and was now doing some kind of weighted pull-up off the goal post at the end of the field. This was humiliating. And I know humiliation. I helped produce the only reality show in the early 2000’s that DIDN’T make it through a full season, for God’s sake.
In the end, we walked back to my car. “I’m really sorry,” I said, “I wanted to run the two miles you suggested but I had to quit after one.” I actually did feel bad about this. Probably slowed him down and threw off his routine and I no longer wonder why he didn’t want to train me in the first place. He tried to be polite and give the old “Hey man, don’t worry. It’s your first time.” I’m hoping it’s not my last only because of how I hate to be defeated but I have a feeling it might be. I’ll have to begin the process of searching for some kind of magic elixir like meth to help with the body fat thing just so I can finally see myself as I want to (oh and be in good shape I think). Will I ever be as good as this guy? Doubtful. But I was still somewhat joyful as I drove away…
Eight and a half months ago I could not walk. Tonight, I ran a mile. And that’s something to be proud of.