Tag Archives: running sucks

Honk if You …


I was out on a run this morning, and a guy honked at me.

Context: I run in the wee predawn hours, while most of the normals are still asleep. And I run in the suburbs of a fairly rural county. (Depending on the direction I go, I can pass more cows than cars on the road. And no matter which way I go, there will surely be roosters crowing.) This means streetlights are scarce and trees are ubiquitous.

What I’m saying is, as much as I love my generally peaceful starlit runs, they are scary, too. And I say that, fully cognizant that as a good-sized white dude, I probably have less to fear from the world at large than anybody in a similar circumstance.

I can’t see very far. Anything could be lurking in the trees. And despite my day-glo reflective vest, I can never be entirely sure that the oncoming car is going to see me or not. I mean, the driver is out before 5 in the morning — they’re probably sucking down coffee or shaving or applying their makeup or stuffing their face with a buttered biscuit, expecting (fairly!) zero human contact on our sleepy back roads. They’re not expecting to see a lunatic pounding the pavement with his idiot dog in tow.

All of which is to say: there I am, running. I hear the car coming up from behind. I see its headlights illuminating the trees along the roadside. Then, as it passes me: BEEEEEYOWWWWWWW.

Nice, firm blast. Not the quick, cheery ‘toot’ of “good morning, fellow early riser.” This is laying-on-the-horn. This is “you deliberately blocked the intersection in front of me, and now I can’t go, and nobody behind me can go, and now NOBODY ANYWHERE CAN GO SO I WILL HONK AT YOU IN FUTILITY.” This is the vilest of expletives delivered without words.

And because I’m out running in the scary night and I’m always a little on edge in that situation, I jump off the road and stumble into a ditch. Dog gets tangled up in my legs and starts yowling. It’s chaos.

Here’s the thing, though. I’ve been honked at before, and every other time, the driver adds some comment to clarify his communication (strangely enough, it’s always a “him,” innit?). Lots of times I can’t make it out because they can barely get the window open in time to shout it out and the doppler effect or their naturally neandarthalic speech smears the words into an unrecognizable buzz. Lots of homophobic slurs, for some reason. Tons of “idiot”s or “a-hole”s. I even had a car slow down and pace me for a good, solid minute once. That was scary.

But none of that this time. Just the horn in the dark and a drive into the night. And it left me wondering, as I climbed out of the ditch and untangled my dog’s leash, “why?”

Why beep at a runner in the dead of night? A runner, mind you, on the opposite side of the road, whom you are in no danger of hitting, who is causing you no inconvenience, who might well be one of your neighbors?

I have some theories.

  1. He just wanted to let me know he was coming. This is a favorable interpretation, but a dumb one, because a car coming down a dark road with its lights on is the most noticeable dangerous thing possible for me.
  2. He wanted me to know that he thinks I’m a jerk for running on the road. Sorry, pal. Gonna need a little more clarification than that. Say it to my face. (I bet I can outrun you.)
  3. He saw something in the trees and wanted to warn me of the danger. Again, unlikely, but hey, I can still be charitable.
  4. He hates runners because a runner once killed his brother, and he now wages a private crusade against all runners by honking at them. Sorry, bro.
  5. He just noticed a bee in the car and hit his horn in the ensuing panic for his life. If this was the case, I totally understand.
  6. His horn just goes off sometimes. That’s okay, honey. It happens to all guys sometimes. Still, maybe get it checked out.
  7. I offended his life choices as a fat slob with my in-your-face running lifestyle, and he had to voice his displeasure.
  8. What he really wanted to do was cross the center line and run me over, but in lieu of a murder charge, he honked his horn instead.
  9. He thought I was a luminous, highly reflective monster coming to devour him and his entire lineage, and he honked to scare me back into the night.
  10. He thinks I’m awesome and wants me to keep it up.

Yeah, we’ll go with #10.

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Better Miles


Some days, the miles are easy. Some days, they’re hard.

Some days, you drag yourself out of bed to pound the pavement because you know if you don’t do this one thing, get this one win early, you may not see another win all day.

Some days, you burst onto the street, strong like bull, ready to wrestle the day to the ground and steal its lunch money.

Some days, you run and you slave and you gasp and groan and feel like you’ll never cross the finish line.

Some days, the fresh, clean air hits your lungs and you feel like you could run forever.

Some days, the miles are best forgotten about.

Some days, the miles stay with you.

But any day when the finish line looks like this:

20180620_080023.jpg

Those miles seem just a little bit better.

Happy running from Tybee Island.


Crash and Burn


Today’s run was a big crash and burn. Worst I’ve had in a while. I was planning for 5 miles — a decent enough long run given where my running has been lately, especially given that we were headed to the Georgia Aquarium today, where we were sure to get lots of walking in.

To fend off the monotony, I uncapped one of the routes I haven’t used in a while, heading away from the mall where I usually run out toward a side road that goes behind one of the local shopping centers. A really peaceful route actually, and one that’s lovely in the mist that settled in early this morning. And I felt the first twinges in my heel at about two miles.

By the time I hit the farthest point, my heel was screaming with every step. So I was faced with the injured runner’s quandary: suck it up and power through the injury, possibly doing further injury in the process, or take the walk of shame and walk it home. Unfortunately, at a distance of over two miles from home, walking wasn’t a particularly good look. I split the difference, running a quarter mile then walking a hundred yards or so. I don’t think I made the injury any worse. Hours later, a bunch of walking and a healthy dose of ice behind me, and it’s feeling okay. Better than this morning. Okay enough to make me think this morning could have been a fluke: just a tweak and not a major setback.

Still, this is frustrating as hell. I’ve had heel issues for over a year now — maybe more like two — and while I’d had a recent flareup, it’s been better over the past couple of weeks, better enough that I thought I had the injury on the ropes again. And then, just a total breakdown.

The smart play is to cool it on the running for a while, but if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you might know how hard that would be for me. Partially I fear the loss of momentum, though that’s less an issue for me now than it was a few years ago… running is in my blood these days, it ain’t gonna leave me if I break for a week or three. More of an issue is that running is my mind-altering drug of choice. My day starts from the run. It’s how I deal with stress, it’s how I clear my head and kick around writing ideas and … yeah. It’s an addiction of the worst sort: I need it to feel normal.

My wife is rolling her eyes as she reads this, but I’m probably going to suit up for a run again on Tuesday and see how it feels. If my heel is still jolting me like an exposed nerve, then — then — it’ll be time to hang up my shoes for a bit.

But not before.

For better or worse, I’m stubborn about my runs, and I can accept a little physical discomfort in favor of the mental benefits.


We Must Be Crazy


It struck me this morning, watching my breath rise in wispy, ghostlike puffs as I was wrapped in a long-sleeved insulated shirt and a vibrant insulated hoodie (I call this color please-don’t-hit-me-with-your-car-orange), to say nothing of the track pants, thick gloves, and knit cap.

You have to be a little bit crazy to do this.

Sport, Moon, Moon Phase, Mood, Run, Silhouette, Runners

Even a casual runner like myself will have to deal with a lot in the pursuit of a bit of exercise. Here in Atlanta, that includes some truly punishing hills just about anywhere you try to go, not to mention wickedly schizophrenic weather (it was 72 degrees on Christmas day, and in the upcoming five days we’ll go from 20 degrees to 60 and back again if the weather outlets are to be believed). But wherever you do this running thing, many struggles are the same. If you run in the cities or the suburbs, there’s traffic to dodge. If you run in the country or on trails, you’ve got ticks and snakes and mosquitoes and spiderwebs to avoid.

Today it’s cold weather, and while I know that calling 22 degrees “cold” earns a snort and a snigger from some of you folks up north, it’s about as cold as the bones of this fragile Georgian can stand. I’ve got almost a dozen pieces of cold-weather gear for running, and none of it seems to put me in any sort of comfort zone. Fleece-lined gloves. Moisture-wicking hats. Shirts in all thicknesses and weights. I permutate the system, layer up, and try to adjust for the slightest fluctuation in temperature, wind, and precipitation, but it’s impossible to get it right. When I start out, the cold slices through all that and chills the bones, but once the engine gets running, suddenly I’m sweltering in all these layers and running around with the jacket undone, the sleeves rolled up, the gloves in a pocket.

And the summer. God.

When you’re a not-in-the-best-shape-of-your-life dude like me, there’s only so many layers of clothing you’re comfortable removing, even if you run in the wee hours of the morning. Then the temperature creeps up into the nineties and every step feels like stepping forward into warm Jello, the air positively gelatinous with humidity. The clothes smell of sweat even after coming through the wash. Even your feet perspire.

Then there are the injuries, and a runner without injuries is like a politician without a closet full of skeletons. The past two years, I’ve fought off nagging injuries in the calves, heels, and ankles of both feet. My wife gets horrible blisters and knee issues and, through running, discovered she actually had a broken bone in her spine (probably from gymnastics earlier in life, but unearthed by running).

Point is, running, as a whole, tends toward the unpleasant. For the most part, it isn’t a lot of fun.

Yet, pounding the pavement in the relative stillness of the early morning, watching those puffs of misty breath rise and scatter before my face, feeling the cold leaking into the soles of my feet, the tips of my fingers, the bulb of my nose, it hit me.

Despite all that the run sucked (and it did suck: I was slower than I’ve been in weeks, I felt short of breath, and my left heel was acting up again), I was still undeniably enjoying myself. I was glad I’d hauled myself out of bed, despite not having to work today. The run felt right, like an old Def Leppard t-shirt from high school or your memory-foam pillow at the end of a particularly long day.

I guess it’s not surprising that I’ve embraced such a masochistic form of exercise: you have to be maybe more than a little bit crazy to decide in your thirties that you want to be a writer, and start committing hours every day toward what most people think of as a pipe dream. Putting down your words and thoughts and the bizarre worlds that exist in your mind for others to see. Thinking about stories and narratives and conflicts and subplots when you could just as easily veg out and watch a House marathon on the weekends (man, I miss that show). Choosing that mental torture when I could just as easily not seems as indicative as anything that there’s something wrong with me.

Writer, Shadow, Man

Running and writing, two great forms of torture that taste great together!

Is this a universal truth — that the things you love cause you pain and discomfort like this? Frankly, it’s kind of bullshit. I wish I enjoyed other forms of exercise, or even better, that I didn’t care about exercise at all, but I just can’t. Nothing else floats my boat. And writing … well, maybe all this will come to nothing, but I decided two years ago that not trying was no longer acceptable, so come hell or hot Atlanta summers (which are practically synonymous, but whatever), I’m going to keep going.

We must be crazy to choose this running life, this writing life.

But upon further reflection, we’d be even crazier not to.


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