9 laps to a mile.
7, 357 steps. about.
my shoes have holes where my heel rubs against the back and now it’s just sock on plastic. the laces used to be hard to tie and now i can pull them tight, double knot them and still have giant bunny ears flopping over the sides.
it never used to be this way. running. this horrible act that gets you no where. accomplishes nothing. running for the sake of running. silliness.
the track is at the college gym. i get in for free because of my wife. when it’s raining, or the temperature drops below fifty fahrenheit and my breathing becomes troublesome i go there. i flash my badge at whoever is looking and take the steps one at a time to the track – delaying the pain.
sports are a reason to run. basketball. baseball. football. even neighborhood games like hotbox or free the bunch. these things justify the act of running. running just to run. what is the purpose?
they painted the SRC (sports and recreation center) orange with navy accents to match the school colors. i’m not sure who signed off on it, but they should be fired. it takes a glorious facility and makes it chinsy. a word that should never be associated with my alma mater. inside, where they hide the track, it is now familiar.
my wife insists on punishing herself most mornings. she wakes up early and she does this running thing. when i started my beer hobby she insisted that i work out in some capacity. the easiest and cheapest form of exercise is running for running’s sake. as depressing as it is, i started.
there’s a sign on the railing that borders the interior of the track – a giant oval cutout over looking three different basketball courts that are used not just for basketball, but indoor baseball practice, lacrosse, and a rock climbing wall – that points that day’s direction. there are people already in flow. i pull the jacket off, double check my armband, and merge into oncoming traffic. i have no counter and rely on my memory. with each step i mentally say the words. lap one. one. one. one. one.
my first mile after not having a gym class in years was brutal. thank the maker i didn’t record it. eventually it got easier, and i tacked on distance. winter came and i went to the SRC with a friend. we upped our distance to 2 miles running and went almost daily. then to three. all in the name of my beer hobby.
the first two miles go quickly. a phrase i never dreamed i could say. two miles. quickly? still, 18 laps later i feel good and i have time. all the time. i decide 4 is my new target, pending lap 28 – a lap that causes a mental block. there’s something in me that needs this, though. today, i need 4. i need 36 laps. 36 defined ovals that just require a mindless foot in front of the other. i can do this. i’m doing this.
three is my sweet spot. i’m still slow, but three is where i live. on a bad day it takes 30 minutes. on a good day, under 27. reliable timing. not too much of an inconvenience. the outside route is now familiar and i know how to pace myself. 27 laps when indoor running is required is enough to avoid insanity. three. i like three. three is enough to feel like i’ve worked out, but few enough that i’m not a runner. i’m enabling a hobby. three is good.
i started running around 11:00am, having woken at 6:30. i knocked out a list of tasks, including a delightful americano, but forgot the part about food. this works to my advantage as lap 28 comes and goes. no cramping. legs are fine. breath is good. 36 will come quickly. i entertain the thought of 5 miles. 5 would be good. haven’t run 5 in a long time.
a friend convinced me to a to do a 10 mile race. i agreed, and i trained. i roped Dad and the whole family into it. the only way i’d finish. as a family event i maintained that i was not a runner. this is a family event. bonding.
lap 36. my mind blanks. there’s nothing left to think. just the numbers. 3. 6. 3. 6. right, 3. left, 6. i’ve zoned out the podcast squawking in my ears without realizing it. i stare ahead, footfall after footfall, and dream of lap 45.
when we trained, i dreamt of chocolate milk. always chocolate milk. a giant cold glass of it. smooth and rich. maybe i’d have a second glass? i’d probably need a second glass. each footfall brought that glass closer. training – running – sucks.
at 40 these young goons enter the track. they’re younger and they’re quicker and that is the most annoying. they lap me. i scowl. 5 laps to go. nothing i can do.
after the race, i kept at it. habit forming and what not. i reverted back to three because three is my sweet spot, and then if i’m only running 3 miles 4 – 5 times a week, i’m not a runner.
lap 45 is my favorite lap. it’s the final lap. all the energy left in my legs is let loose. my legs are long and i use them. i push my strides longer and i feel lighter. i pass the three goons as i round my final ninth of a mile. the air changes around me as i pick up speed all i see is the end. let me get to the end.
it’s time i own up to it.
i am a runner.
that tastes like skunk mixed with a lysol baby wipes. bleh. i am a runner? disgusting. the trouble is…
i rearrange my schedule to get runs in. in the summer, when i can run outside, i run 7 days a week. in the winter, it goes down to 5-6 because of the track’s availability but that’s still a lot of days. a lot of miles. a lot of running. when my personal plans interfere, i rearrange my work schedule to get the miles in. to get the laps in. to get running in.
it’s despicable, really. a terrible drug. there’s this idea of a runner’s high floating around runner’s circles. there’s no high with running. if there was, maybe i wouldn’t feel so sick at the thought of it. it’s torture, really. each stride makes me hate myself a little bit more, but i need it like i need to breath. i have to get it in. i can’t miss days. i need the running. if someone would like to have an intervention, i’d gladly allow it. please, take this running from me.
i finished the 45th lap and started walking to cool down. i caught myself wondering if i can fit a run in between 2-4, the open track hours on sundays, tomorrow. foolishness. too much going on. still, it’d be good to get it in.
uffda. i am a runner.