Running, like any activity, has its pros and cons.
PRO: Sitting down to a well-deserved post-run coffee.
CON: Not being able to stand back up.
I know this because the other day I sat down to the aforementioned coffee only to discover, upon attempting to stand, that I was stuck.
I’m not proud to admit that I wasted a large portion of my youth watching The Price is Right. As a result, I am fantastically familiar with a small range of products aimed at the peculiar demographic that watches weekday mid-morning television. Quiz me on anything pertaining to life insurance policies, litigation lawyers, or Metamucil. No, seriously. I’m like the Jeopardy champion of marketing propaganda designed for the geriatric consumer.
This being the case, of course I immediately thought of those old Life Alert commercials—you know, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”—and wished there were a version for runners.
[enter sweaty runner sitting down to drink coffee]
Runner [upon trying to stand]: “Help! I sat down and can’t get up!”
Responder: “Don’t worry, Ms. Runner. We’re on our way!”
[enter Post-Run Responders helping runner stand up as black-and-white effect gives way to color]
The Runner Alert could also be worn mid-run for those pesky times when you stop to tie your shoelaces and get stuck in a squatting position (at a busy intersection during rush hour). Or when you stop for a quick sip of water that is not so quick that your recalcitrant hamstrings can’t muster the moxie to seize up. Or when you stop for any reason and immediately transform into the Tinman. It’s basically Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.
Runner Alert. External force. Boom.
It’s a twisted little phenomenon, but running makes young people feel like old people who feel young. (I swear this makes sense. Think about it.)
I am only months away from celebrating (mourning?) the big 3-0, and yet I creak and groan and struggle for mobility after long runs.
“You’re too young to feel like that,” my dad said as I fell out of my car last Saturday.
“Ye-ah… I… oww… know.”
Yes, I am too young to feel like that. Then again, I had just run sixteen miles. And twelve miles the day before that. I consoled myself with irrelevant mileage totals and limped contentedly into the house.
And speaking of limping, does anyone else feel proud of the post-run limp? Sometimes I think I subconsciously exaggerate it—ever so slightly—just to ensure people notice I’m limping. Because then, of course, they’ll look at me, whereupon I will communicate to them by a few suggestive eyeball twitches and a dollop of telekinesis that I am limping because I just ran twenty miles around St. Louis, including the Skinker Hill in Forest Park and that really hilly stretch of Big Bend, which is also known as “Big Bend.”
Those are some pretty communicative eyeball twitches, aren’t they?
Of course, the entire time I’m limping and twitching at the stranger walking out of Home Depot, I’m also silently harboring the following monologue:
Please ask me why I’m limping. Please ask me what I did this morning. Please ask me how far I ran. Because I don’t want to brag, but I would love to tell you, Mr. Stranger Walking Out of Home Depot, how awesome I am (in a very humble, reluctant manner, of course). But I can’t do that unless you ask. And even though I know you don’t care, I’m secretly impressed with myself and would just like the opportunity to express my accomplishments out loud.
Of course, he doesn’t ask (he doesn’t even give me a second glance), and we simply pass by each other like two forklifts in a loading zone, he an indifferent stranger, and I a really creepy limper with shifty eyes.
Where was I? Ah, yes, running makes young bodies feel like old bodies that feel young.
Henry David Thoreau summed things up nicely when he said, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” Well, if there is one thing runners know, it’s enthusiasm. We’re cultivators of enthusiasm. We celebrate it with tutus and t-shirts and bib numbers and banana suits and Superman capes. We measure it by kilometers and tenths of a mile. Just go to a local 5K. It’s a veritable harvest of enthusiasm, proffering a feast of bagels and donuts and age group awards.
I am thoroughly convinced you can’t be an old fogey—not really—and a distance runner. It’s just not possible. Yes, there is much to be cynical about in this world, and nothing ages a person like cynicism, but running isn’t one of them. You can’t be a grump and splash through puddles. Old farts don’t go on muddy trail runs. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Did you see that curmudgeon running in the rain the other day? The rain was coming down in torrents. What a stiff.” No. I’ve never heard that. And neither have you. Partly because no one uses the word “curmudgeon” anymore, but also because it’s true. Crabby old people don’t run in downpours and sleet storms. Crabby old people are boring.
No, you can’t be a runner and a cynic because running is the opposite of cynicism. Running is full of hope and adventure. Running is about setting goals and achieving them. Running is about embracing the ridiculous. Running is about guts and gusto and finding childlike excitement in the little things, like discovering an unexpected roll of toilet paper in a state park bathroom. Running is about the philosophy, “If at first you don’t succeed, sign up for another race or wait until you hit the next age bracket.”
Running is the opposite of being an old fogey. Running is about being perpetually young. Perpetually young and sore.
I was proud to fall out of my car on Saturday. I fell out of my car because I’ve got spunk. Because I’ve got chutzpah. Because, by golly, I’ve got so much enthusiasm, it practically knocked me over.
The only thing I didn’t have was Advil, which may have contributed to the whole “falling out of the car” thing.
At any rate, rest assured, Mr. Thoreau, as long as there is earth to cover and runners to cover it, enthusiasm with flourish.
But I’m not gonna lie. The “Runner Alert” wouldn’t hurt.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner. Her second book, Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story, will be released in 2014.