I am a runner. Or at least I run. I'm not sure what exactly makes one a runner as opposed to someone who runs. Maybe it's the super tiny shorts or sexy calves. I'm not sure, but what I do know is that for the past six years, I have been running.
I've also been not running. And I've been drinking. Then, I've also been not drinking. Expressed mathematically, the amount of miles I log in a given week is the inverse of how many beers I'll drink in that same week. If that equation doesn't pencil out, I apologize. I've taken exactly zero math classes over these six years.
But for the most part, I've been a steady runner during this time, and when I tell people this, they don't tend to believe me, mostly because, depending on the time of year, I'm kind of fat. Not Biggest Loser sort of fat. Not at all, actually. I suppose I'm more accurately described as "husky" and my gut is of the beer variety. But I can run.
Somehow, I can drag my 204-pound self down seven or more miles of trail at a time. I do this not because I'm good at it - I'm not - but because I like it, even when I have runs like I did today.
It commenced in the same fashion most extended runs I've endured over the years have begun - with my wife telling me we're going running. These invitations, if you want to call them that, are reluctantly welcomed. I'm excellent at inventing reasons not to run: sore legs, late meetings, accidental drunkenness (look it up, it's a real thing), exceptional television programming and a bevy of other excuses I can easily synthesize when my laziness is in full swing. I need the motivation.
My wife and I don't talk on these runs. She wants to, but I refuse, opting for the comfort of the little white buds in my ears. So she does the same and we run side-by-side from our house toward the trailhead, the chirping of Beyonce somehow audible from her headphones above my own Arcade Fire. Today, I started falling behind after about a mile and a half, which is typical, but not totally undesirable. From this position, I can enter a trance created by my music, the cadence of my wife's footfalls, the muscular jiggling of her ass and the swishing of her ponytail. By the time we're out on the trails today, though, both of my feet and one of my calves is cramping. We still have four miles to go and my wife can't hear me groaning as she gradually makes her way, ten... twenty... fifty yards ahead, before vanishing from site.
I stop and retie my shoes. The pain stops for maybe a minute, then returns. And intensifies. Mountain bikers and other runners are passing me in both directions, I smile and wave, but they don't smile and wave back because they're wearing lots of spandex and, as far as I can tell, it's illegal to smile or wave at passersby in Bend, Oregon when wearing excessive spandex. I'm exactly halfway through the six-and-a-half mile loop when my left foot starts going numb. Soon, from the knee down is tingling and my foot has a swollen sensation. It's as if my shoe is keeping my foot from exploding, and judging from the burning pain shooting up with each pounding of the battered appendage against the uneven ground of the trail, it very well might be.
I've turned a corner and there's been no traffic coming either way and my wife is far out of sight. The nearest car is probably two miles away. I should really stop because something is very wrong, but I keep running and the foot feels like it's encased in concrete, forcing me to drag it with each step. I start to think about the foot needing extreme medical attention. Maybe even amputation. That's how quickly I tend to hyperbolize things.
That's the thing though - when I'm out there running, my mind doesn't work the same way it is now as I'm sitting in my dark basement hammering away on the keyboard, like I am right now. Far and away, the weirdest shit that's ever crossed through my brainwaves has come as I'm huffing along on treadmills, trails or roads. I've thought about the songs I'd like played at my funeral. I've recalled friends I haven't seen in 10 years. I've wondered if I could write a book about the correlation between the Obama administration and the greatness of college basketball since that president took office. I've written entire essays in my brain, then forgotten them by the time I reach the next mile. I've looked down at the digital treadmill display and realized the previous night's Taco Bell will take another hour of running to reconcile and calculated a rough burrito-to-mile calorie burning ratio.
Today, though, it's all about my cement-coated foot, which I may or may not lose. I haven't had a problem like this in a while, but I've had others. For example, I've dove into outhouses mid run because - at least according to my hypothesis - running makes my bowels go crazy. I've also encountered a condition called Severe Male Nipple Chaffing (SMNC, for short) in which my nipples become so agitated that they actually bleed. I have a couple T-shirts with two rusty stains as proof, if you'd like to take a look. Also, I've puked my brains out on the side of roads and trails, much to the displeasure of the soccer moms driving or biking by. Too much information? Probably, but it's evidence that I have no idea how to run (but you can, see the sidebar), even though this ignorance hasn't stopped me from getting out there.
A mile from home, I'm still running. Yeah, this is stupid, but I do it anyway. Eventually, I drag my ass up to my front door. And that's when the real pain comes in. Running really hurt. Stopping actually hurts more. The pain dissipates within a few minutes as I sit on the floor and chug water. My clothing hasn't whisked away the obscene amount of sweat my body is capable of producing, as promised in the advertisements, but I'm OK with that. My foot is black and blue along the arch, my legs exhausted, but my brain is oddly clear and I can't help but feel a bit proud of myself for the next half hour or so.
That, I suppose, is the reward for running. Or in my experience, trying to run. There's an almost tangible sensation of accomplishment when you've busted up your body and pushed your gag reflex right to the edge. Sure, it might cost me a couple bloody nipples and more than a few "look at that chubby guy run" sort of glances, but I suppose it's worth it... even though I'll probably never be an actual runner.
How to Run Right
Do you like running, but aren't sure exactly what the hell you're doing when you get out there (like Mike in the story to the right)? Or are you an established runner who has recently realized that your form could use some help to help prevent injuries and increase your effectiveness? Are you tired of us asking all these questions and want us to cut to the chase?
What we're getting at is that there are some places in Bend where you can learn how to get your running form up to snuff. FootZone is offering a free twice-a-week Good Form Running clinic that helps even the most casual runners improve their form. The clinic focuses on the four points of Good Form Running, and also includes drills and video presentations.
By the time the 90-minute clinic is over, you should find your gait maximized, or at the very least, better than it was when you awkwardly ran into the building. If you want to get in on the Good Form Running clinics, they take place on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings at FootZone. If you would like to register, contact FootZone's Teague Hatfield at Teague@footzonebend.com.