Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Jogging for Normal People: Admiting the Truth

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I've recently come to terms with the fact that I look stupid when I run.

This is something I've known for some time. I've always been tall, and lanky, and grew just fast enough that my coordination couldn't quite keep up. In grade school I played soccer, and looked so awkward that I'd occasionally hear opposing coaches mocking me from the sidelines. In high school I played basketball, and tripped on my own feet more often than I was fouled by the opposing team.

But I got older, gained some self-confidence, started to feel good about my new foray into fitness, and forgot that -- at least in motion -- I look like a jack ass.

With that in mind, there's a few points in particular during my nightly (or almost nightly) jogging vigil that I'd like to rectify with reality.

1. The bold beginning. What I think I look like: A man alone with the night. Stoically setting off into the darkness -- with poise, purpose and conviction. Like Ray Liotta emerging from the corn fields as Shoeless Joe in "Field of Dreams." What I actually look like: some unshaven, scrubby-looking dude with a weird, self-important look on his face. If he wasn't wearing yuppie running clothes that were obviously a Christmas gift you might think he was a) one of the students at the nearby college, or b) out to mug one of the students at the nearby college.

2. My first pause for breath. What I think I look like: An athlete. A warrior. A Nike/Gatorade commercial celebrating humanity's relentless drive toward excellence. What I actually look like: Someone who's just been punched in the stomach. Or someone having an asthma attack. Or a college student that's just been mugged for his iPod Nano.

3. The last push/the home stretch. What I think I look like: Pick any Rocky movie, watch the final fight sequence, and you'll know where I'm coming from. I can see myself in slow motion. I can hear the thud of landing punches as my feet smack the pavement. I'm listening to the triumphant music of heavyweight champions as I push on toward my doorstep. What I actually look like: Have you ever seen an old, wooden wheelbarrow -- full of sod, or fertilizer, or whatever -- get away from whoever was pushing it, and rumble completely out of control down a bumpy hill? Can you at least picture that? It pretty much sums it up.

No, I may never look cool while I'm running. But that doesn't mean I can't lie to myself when nobody's watching.

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