Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sports I Don't Understand: Running

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.


credit card debt reduction said...

I ran track in high school and college. I guess it was the daily release of endorphins that made me want to run every day. It was also good for my heart. Sorry to say I can't do this anymore!

Coachhrd said...

I understand your comments, but running becomes a lifestyle once you consistently lose weight, feel more healthy and gain the sense of accomplishment that goes along with completing events.

Take a look at my blog devoted to training and coaching tips. Perhaps it will provide better inspiration towarding running (You're right about the "bleeding nipples, but that's nothing a good dose of Body Glide won't cure!) http://coachhrd.blogspot.com.

Joe Hrdlicka

Anonymous said...

Peoria is boring??? Pot, kettle, etc...
When I was in Vecchio's bike shop in Boulder and mentioned that I was from Peoria, they recognized Peoria because we host the Proctor Cycling Classic race. Must be the big prize money that makes the race famous.

Running shoes are sorta like bike tires. They make a big difference in the feel, the efficiency, etc. And when that's the only equipment you can fiddle with, it gets a lot of attention!

I never ran distances over 7 miles, but it was a good experience. Very much like bike time trialing.

Have you put some thought into your bike ride journals? Doing anything to spice things up when the kids start rolling their eyes everytime you write "The Paselas have a ride like fine wine..."? :-)

Steve K.
from Dunlap, not Peoria, IL

Steve Fuller said...

As a former runner (2 hour 1/2 marathon and 20K finisher), I can understand the draw to running. Once you get going there is some sort of internal mechanism that says "just one more mile". However, I never get over the inability to walk normally after a long run or race. Cycling leaves my knees and ankles feeling a lot better, even after 9 hours in the saddle. Speaking of odd fetish like obsessions, runners are to shoes like cyclists are to saddles. Brooks B17, B17 Narrow, or Swift?

Tarik Saleh said...

This falls under the category of sports you don't understand 'cause you suck at them.

Of course you hit the main point, the key to running is to enjoy it. I think most people suck at running, because they don't enjoy it. They have no idea how to get past the fact that running hurts until right at the end where it feels pretty good. The running mindset should be foot based pass hunters rather than time trialist...

I ran an obscene amount in college (intercollegiate racer) and enjoyed almost everything, except indoor track, which was a necessary evil to get to do XC and outdoor track. The training no problem, even training outdoor in the winter in boston. Racing on a indoor track was stupid, even dumber than swimming in a pool.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed running and still do.

Jason Nunemaker: said...

Touche, Tarik, touche. You are correct. I *do* suck at running. My drunken-rhinoceros grace means I spend most of my runs explaining to passerby that no, I am not having a seizure, but thanks for your concern. That's why I like biking -- even a spastic klutz like me can look semi-elegant doing it.

By the way, congrats on the new arrival, Daddy Saleh! Does your guest appearance here mean you'll be back to spinning blog gold again soon?

Tarik Saleh said...

Thanks pal.
Blog gold restarts tomorrow night or so, right after I probably punt the local cross race in favor of diaper changing. (although I am still holding out hope I will be at the start line, as a diversion from the direct path to get diapers at the store...)
Good luck on those elliptical trainers! I would rather run in the endless strip mall parking lots than hit the elliptical trainer, the hedgerows are handy steeplechase barriers...