During an attempted ride on Sunday, I got stuck behind the end of the Des Moines Marathon. Don't get me wrong -- I'm thrilled that Des Moines has a marathon and a major triathlon, since both events make us look more like a "real" city, possibly moving us past Topeka and Peoria in the "Least Dull Places to Live" rankings. (sorry, Steve K.)
However, I simply do not get running. Exhibit A: Look at any runner's face while he/she is participating in this activity. 94 times out of 100, you'll see a grimace of pain (the other 6 fall into the "rictus of agony" category). To look at a runner in action, you would think that the sport is just a socially acceptable way to engage in a self-punishment fetish. Granted, I've had some unpleasant moments on a bicycle -- sore hands, tired legs, numbness in places where I'd rather not be numb -- but most of the time, when I'm on wheels, I can (and do) smile. Good friend Elroy "Uncle E" Wylde had it right when he said, "Running is like hitting myself with a hammer. I only do it because it feels so good to stop."
Exhibit B: Chapped, bleeding nipples. Enough said, I hope.
Exhibit C: Shoes. My late-dad was a runner for most of the 80s, and he relentlessly (nay, obsessively) journaled the experience, actually writing down some sort of narrative about each and every run rather than just keeping a mileage log. And while that journal is one of my most treasured possessions, it bores me to death on the subject of shoes. "First run in new Nike Air Max today." "Not happy with the Nikes, trying a pair of Adidas." "Orthotics fit poorly in Adidas, going to try New Balance 990s." "990s good, but apparently out of production. Not sure what I'll do when these wear out." Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. Bikers certainly aren't immune to equipment obsession (he says, writing a ridiculously self-indulgent blog packed with bicycle equipment minutiae), but at least we have equipment to obsess about. Brake pad compounds. Chain lubes. Gear ratios. Crank lengths. Handlebar shapes. What's to obsess about with running shoes? Tie them, and go abuse yourself.
Exhibit D: The inability to coast. I ride a fixed gear about half the time, so I've voluntarily abandoned my coasting capacity for a lot of rides. Note, however, that I said voluntarily. Runners get no choice. Downhill, uphill, it's all the same. No rest for the wicked. Just keep slappin' the feet down. No wonder the runner's epic, be-all-end-all event is only 26 (pardon me, 26.2) miles long. If you guys could figure out a way to rest while moving, maybe you could cover more distance.
Exhibit E: That extra .2 miles on the marathon. Yes, I know, the distance run by Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens was PRECISELY 26.2 miles. I'm that big of a nerd. But round down, for Pete's sake. You just ran 26 miles. Isn't that enough punishment? You really have to tack on another .2 in honor of a Greek guy who, if the legend is to be believed, immediately DROPPED DEAD upon finishing that last point-two? I'd be inclined to take that as a lesson: "26 miles is a fine stopping point." (The cyclist's corollary is, "Don't take amphetamines and climb Mount Ventoux in the heat," a rule I have steadfastly followed all my life.)
I think I've made my case, so I'm going to close up and go for a ride. If for some reason I'm found dead with New Balance and Nike tracks all over my body, just look for the grimacing guys with shin splints and bloody nipples.