I want to make it clear, right here at the beginning, that I have never liked to run.
I’m aware that there are people who love to run. There is a peculiar species of humans that goes outside several times a week and just runs for the fun of it. They put on their shoes and just go. And I know what you’re thinking here, but no, there is absolutely nothing chasing them.
I have checked.
“But Jessica,” you say. “What happens when it rains? Surely they’re not running in the rain! That would be wet and extremely uncomfortable! And what happens when they get out of breath? Or start sweating?”
Friend, I know it’s perplexing, and possibly a little bit frightening, but try to understand this. These people have a bizarre compulsion that causes them to run in every kind of weather – rain, snow, hail, wind, you name it, they’ll run in it. As to the whole ‘out of breath’ question, you may not believe me on this, but…they like that. That’s like, the whole point to them. And the sweating, too! When they finish running, they are usually very sweaty and out of breath, and sometimes their legs are a little wobbly.
A sane person who experiences a condition like that would rightly assume there was something wrong with them and take themselves to the hospital. A runner, however, would look at his red, soggy face in the mirror and say, “Yes, this is precisely what I was hoping would happen. I am just the right amount of dying right now. I think I will get up at four in the morning tomorrow so that I can repeat this misery before the sun comes up. If I can lose some sleep over it, that would be ideal.”
Anyway, in our ever-expanding attempt to be ‘healthy people’, Taylor and I have taken up jogging. The internet told us that runners, despite their apparent psychosis, are in extremely good shape. We would also like to be in extremely good shape, so for the last several weeks we have strapped on our sneakers and gone hobbling out into the wilderness to get sweaty and make our legs tired.
It’s been going pretty well so far, which is surprising. See, I was that kid in highschool who ran the twelve-minute mile, walking half the way, while my peers sat in the grass and waited for me to drag myself across the finish line so that they could go play dodge ball. Experiences like that have taught me that exercise is basically just being humiliated for half an hour before the bell rings and you’re allowed to slither away in shame. I have completely written off any athletic aspirations out of pure embarrassment, so when Taylor said we were going to join the ranks of the insane and run for health and pleasure I felt like he had just announced that we were going to post my home movies on the internet, especially the one of the play I was in when I was nine, where I did a little dance and accidentally kicked my shoe off into the audience where it hit a woman in the head.
I wasn’t too excited.
After the first couple of days of pulling ourselves along the two-mile route that Taylor had designed, though, I noticed something. I realized something that made the runs a little better, that gave me a little burst of adrenaline and motivation.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I was slightly faster than Taylor.
This little victory was all I needed to turn me into a wild-eyed competetive monster.
I find now that I get unnecessarily irritated when I see Taylor loping along ahead of me. When he seems more out of breath than I am, I try to conceal my own panting to maybe make him think that I am barely even winded. Despite his legs being the height of telephone poles, I scoot along next to him, unwilling to be left behind. And when I actually do get ahead of him, I like to rub his nose in it, just a little bit.
“Oh, how far did you get last time you went?” I ask casually. “To that big red tree? Oh, yeah, that’s pretty good. I don’t remember exactly how far I got. I just run, like a runner does. Pretty sure I got to…oh, I don’t know. The park. Oh, is that farther than the tree? I didn’t realize. I was just so in the zone, you see.”
Understand that by ‘in the zone’ I mean that I was gasping my way down the route, muscles burning, sweat dripping, with the words MUST BEAT TAYLOR thumping through my brain.
It seems that running brings out the worst in me. I guess that if I turn into a truly horrible person, at least I’ll still be a fit horrible person.
And a sane horrible person at that, because at this point I can safely say that running is just hell in Nikes for a half hour. All you people who enjoy it can just go run off a cliff.*