I documented a little bit of what it’s like to kick it in my hood today. Come along with me.
Garmin: Uhhhh….oh. *yawn* Hey. Is it Spring?
Me: No, I’m just going for a run.
Garmin: Yeah, well, it’s been a while.
Me: I know. I was sick.
Garmin: Oh. Okaaaaay. You were sick since the end of November.
Me: Yes, just find your satellites, please.
Garmin: Locating, locating, locating. You want me to find an extra one? Just in case.
Me: No. C’mon, I haven’t got all day.
Me: *timer start*
. . . . . .
Garmin: Are we still warming up?
Me: No, I’m running. This is running today.
Garmin: Well, not everyone comes back from Ebola, I guess.
Me: What? I didn’t have Ebola. What made you think I had Ebola?
Garmin: Anthrax? Bird flu? Oh my god, did you have bubonic plague????
Me: WHAT? No! I had viruses. Several viruses.
Garmin: Oh. I mean, I was just looking at the pace, and I assumed… well. How many viruses?
Me: A lot of viruses.
. . . . .
Garmin: Why’d you stop?
Me: Somebody ran over a flute. It’s all smashed by the side of the road.
Garmin, in a high-pitched and terrible English accent: And the piper shall pipe no moooore, for his weightily wielded instrument of pleasure has been weightily welded into the pavement.
Me: Stop, that’s terrible. Who told you to be English?
Garmin: *beeps mirthfully*
Garmin, back to normal: Are you sure you weren’t just winded? Here on the wood-winding road?
Me: Really. Stop.
. . . . .
Garmin: OH, I LOVE this song. Let’s run faster!
Me: *skip song*
. . . . .
Me: *timer stop*
Me: *blowing like a calving heifer*
Garmin: Ok, let’s see. That’s 2.4 miles…let me check the pace…in…um….in….YAY WE WENT RUNNING!
Me: Wisely said.
Garmin: So that half-marathon was really a one-and-done, then?
Garmin: See you Monday?
Me: See you Monday.
. . . . .
I haven’t had much time to write lately, because I am training for a half-marathon. I’m not going to tell you all about how life-changing it is, and how blah blah blah miraculous blah blah blah. Truth is, it’s miserable, and I’m never doing it again. Never. My poor old bad-backed body is not mechanically capable of this on a recurring basis. It is sucking all the joy out of running, and I hate it. Will I put a 13.1 sticker on my car? Abso-damn-lutely. And then, I will go back to running 5K and 10K distances, being happy, and not being in pain most of the time. I am looking forward to this “after party” of sloth in a way that I am not looking forward to a medal or a shirt or bragging rights. I might just be still going because the medal is a combo medal and bottle opener.
I’m running this half with an old friend and someone I don’t really know, on a course of my own devising. The main features of the course are as follows:
- A death-defying mile and a half down “EOL Corridor,” a busy rural highway with no shoulders.
- Miles and miles of gravelly paradise, as you avoid potholes and the occasional roadkill.
- A finish across the road from the one stoplight that we will probably have to wait 90 seconds at, because it crosses the aforementioned busy rural highway.
It’s a dream course. The only thing that would make it better would be 3000 feet of elevation, but I decided I still wanted to have my friend after it was done. Aid stations will be staffed by my 2 and 5-year-old urchins. Kool-aid and marshmallows? Awesome. Do I need to high-five Doc McStuffins again? Let me just turn around and run back to do that. Honestly, the race itself promises to be a blast. It’s the training that makes me cranky and unpopular.
I have to admit, though, I’m a little nervous about running with someone I don’t know very well. Because of my mechanical limitations, I’ll be setting the pace, and I’m not sure he’s used to rogging speeds. And…well. Distance running is not exactly the most elegant way to interact with someone. So, acquaintance and friend of my friend, here’s fair warning about what to expect during our otherwise completely proper 13.1 miles.
- I will blow my nose on my shirt. I have no place to carry dry tissues, and given the choice between pulling sweaty tissues out of my bra and just doing the farmer blow, I will probably choose my shirt. After a mile or so, you won’t be able to distinguish it from the sweat. It’s fine.
- I will breathe a bit like a charging rhinoceros, with my mouth hanging open and the approximate air exchange rate of an Intel cleanroom. I have read that runners should breathe through both nose and mouth. This is a good thing, because my ability to run while yoga breathing is comparable to my ability to do yoga. Corpse pose, anyone?
- My husband has described my eau de runner as “ripe.” When he did this, it made me giggle and try to give him a big, long hug. I honestly consider it a badge of honor that I can, at 40 and with my particular mechanical limits, work hard enough to get “ripe.” Yeah for me! There is nothing I can or will do about this. I have offered showers at my house afterwards, and I promise I will take one.
- Because this is 13.1 miles, I’m going to need to fuel my Shetland physique. This means I’m going to stuff some sort of chewable glucose mess in my mouth and attempt to masticate it while I am doing my “yoga breathing.” This is going to be a lot like watching a camel chew a giant wad of Hubba-Bubba. This would be a good time to look at a non-existent text on your phone.
- I will be listening to my old lady music in one of my ears. I might even start to sing something, or break into some dance moves. Please just copy the choreography as best you can. If you need to eight-count under your breath, that’s fine. We’re all friends on the racecourse, no judgment.
I suppose those are the main things. I don’t expect to cry or fall over or anything really dramatic. I’d like to finish under three hours, but I’m not going to fire anyone if we don’t. I have never had a bathroom related issue, so I don’t think we will have to deal with that, and there’s a convenient construction site around mile 10 anyway. My mom is going to be at the finish line with chocolate milk and a fruit tray, probably on a doily. It should be a hell of a day, let’s go get it. Who knows? Maybe after all is said and done, I’ll change “NEVER EVER AGAIN” to “I currently have no plans to repeat this experience.”
 Male runners who are blessed with large frames are called “Clydesdales,” which I honestly think is kind of cool. If you have ever seen a Clydesdale up close (I have), they are enormous, strong horses. They are beautiful animals and blessed with an incredible work ethic. Female runners of size are called “Athenas.” Athena, as I’m sure you remember, is the Greek goddess of arts and crafts. (Yeah, I know, also of intellect and heroes, but still.) Since I have short legs and a sturdy…erhmmm…”constitution,” I decided I’d rather be a Shetland.
I participated in a 5K race in May that was for women. In fact, it was targeted at women with children, and children of the women with the children, or something like that. One of the race bulletins had an editorial defense of the racers. It hinged on whether or not you could call yourself a “runner.” Apparently, some troll decided that if you don’t run a consistent eight minute mile, you are “just a jogger.” Troll/Trollina felt so strongly about it that he/she (there are female troglodytes, too) posted it the discussion board for a race for mothers, where it is a given that many (really, most) of the participants will not meet that standard, being of a certain age/weight/time constraint for training.
I brought it up with my brother, who was a college level distance runner in the late eighties. The eighties were really the high point for the sport, when people like Alberto Salazar were household names and still competing, and book after book was being published on why everyone should be out pounding the pavement. I said, spreading my hands out as far apart as I could, palms facing outward, “When you were running back in the day, it was running over here (waggle left hand), and jogging over there (waggle right hand).” My brother started laughing and said, “Yeah, you didn’t even do those on the same day.”
The dictionary definitions are pretty clear. Jogging, you are in contact with the ground with at least one foot at all times. This came from something HORSES DO. Running, you have both feet off the ground for an instant during your stride. (As an aside, why aren’t we calling it galloping, or cantering? I digress.) That clears it up! Just get a slow-motion film of yourself on the run/jog, and see if you are indeed leaving the surface of the earth for an instant. When the Running Police ask to see your Runner Cred, you can flash a frame that shows you off the ground. I tested this on my last long run, which I can tell you was nowhere near eight minute miles. I felt like I left the ground. According to the dictionary, I was running. But it is never so simple, is it?
How many sports are there that have a whole different name for people who do it worse than other people? The only one I could think of was golf, where someone who does it badly is called a “duffer.” I guess this means that they don’t take it seriously enough. Even then, it’s not really ok to call someone else a duffer, unless they admit to it first, because they may be taking it very seriously. A slow swimmer isn’t called a “bobber” or somesuch nonsense. An amateur hockey player isn’t called an “ice monkey,” though that is kind of funny, and if you start saying that I want royalties. Why does a large chunk of the running population feel like they are not qualified to call themselves runners?
People seem to invent thresholds to cross before they call themselves runners. One way that people say they “knew” is an injury. The best of these is the Lost Toenail. If you run around the county playing Hansel and Gretel with shed toenails, then you are qualified as a runner. I will probably never pass this test. I ran over six miles on Sunday, and my toenails are just fine. Sadly, not one is turning black or falling off. As an extension of the injury theory, if you have an injury and run anyway, then you are a runner. Most people would say that is courageous, even if it is stupid, but it’s not some sort of game of chicken to see who has the biggest bruises or tornest ACL. If you want to compete with the other 12-year-old adults with injury stories, you go ahead, but stop using that measuring stick on the rest of us. If you are in it FOR the pain, they have another name for that too. It starts with “m” and ends with “asochist.”
Mileage? Do you have to run a certain distance before you are a runner? Do you have to run it all at once? How about your shoes? Maybe if I buy a really expensive pair of shoes, people will recognize that I am a runner. And a cute little running skirt thingy. And a Garmin. Where does the jogging stop, and the running begin—when your credit card is maxed out, or when you are so loaded down with gear that you can’t actually run anymore anyway?
As a last problematic touch, I usually walk part of my training runs, and my races, since I am telling the truth here. Jeff Galloway, author of many fine books about running, walks during marathons. My primary goal, as someone with a couple of weak mechanical points, is to live to run another day. Some days, this means walking through the potholey patch, or down a steep hill. Did I go for a run if I walked at all? It is super fantastic to be proud that you ran a 10K without walking or resting. That speaks to your conditioning, mental fortitude, biomechanics, etc… It is just as cool to plan to rest along the way, but does that make you “just a jogger?”
The last thing that I see in this is a question of attitude. I think the assumption is that if you are not running as hard as you can (defined by Trollina as eight minute miles), then you are not an athlete. Only athletes are runners. The simple-minded majority is a pack of joggers, idiotically smiling their way through without a thought to how damned seriously they ought to be taking this. Check the dictionary again, and it turns out that an athlete is “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength.”  Running a mile qualifies, even if you are wearing a wig and a tutu and singing the national anthem the whole time. In my opinion, that qualifies even more. The dictionary does not say, “and you have to be a certain amount of good at it, or buzz off.”
Since this is so confusing, and so poorly defined, I have come up with a couple of solutions.
Solution One: Let’s just make up a new word for all the people in-between. Enter: Rogging! If you are running part of the time, or all of the time, but you just don’t feel like the real runners will let you in their club, you are a rogger! Go rogging with pride. Get a shirt that says, “I’m a rogger!” Start a rogging club. When people ask you what it means, just tell them that you don’t want to make the more elite amateur runners uncomfortable by including yourself in their club without permission.
Solution Two: If you are intentionally moving faster than you walk, you are a runner. You are running. You run—and I am damn proud of you for it. Keep on running, and running, and running…
 Merriam-Webster iPhone App. How the hell do you reference that? Ummmm…latest download? Version number (which I can’t find, anyway). Let’s just agree that I don’t steal stuff, even from the dictionary.
 You can unintentionally move faster than you can walk. This can be accomplished by falling off a cliff, or being hit by a car, or many other things that should be avoided.