As all of you assuredly know—more than likely due to the fact that I share every thought I’ve ever had with each of you on the Internet via some format that will one day assure that I will never, ever get hired by a Chick-Fil-A franchise anywhere in the world—there are a lot of things I hate. Racism. Vegetables. Mondays. Old people. Young people. In-shape people. Jump ropes (not the activity, the object). Denim. Murderers. Paper. Rodents. Sobriety. Myself, clearly. Anything that was invented on this Earth before July 4, 1776 (sorry Jesus).
Running. I hate running first. I hate running last. I hate running most of all. The entire activity, moving fast not because you need to be somewhere quickly but because, I don’t know, God gave you the ability to move fairly rapidly on your feet and by choosing not to do so you are basically slapping said God in the face I guess, just makes no sense to me. Hey I have a free 5 hours on a Sunday, how should I spend it? Eating copious amounts of bean burritos? Sleeping for 19 hours of the day instead of the Sunday usual of 14? Watching NCIS: Los Angeles and wondering why there is so much naval related crime in and around the Getty Art Museum? Or run for 26.2 miles while every neuron in your brain tells you that they would be having more fun if you decided to murder yourself?
Right then, right there, right when I was participating in the 1-mile run in my 3rd grade class in the form of 4ish laps around the block surrounding my grade school, sweating through my baby blue polo shirt and trying not to vomit on one of several old lady’s lawns, I had discovered the opposite of the meaning of life. This, running, is the reason, the only reason, that I have ever wanted to know what death feels like.
Running is torture. Running is agony. Running is pain. Running is the only way in which you could get me to even think about betraying my country. Allow me to elaborate: let’s just say, for shits and gigs, that I know every single national security secret that America has ever had because me and Barack Obama like to watch reruns of Saved By the Bell: The College Years together. Then let’s say that I am vacationing in Pyongyang, North Korea with my boy Dennis Rodman because we’ve both irrationally decided that the Internet is dumb and freedom is worthless. Then let’s say that Dennis Rodman rolls on me to Kim Jung Un (wrong Kim Jung, I know. I chose hilarity over accuracy. Sue me) because he knows that I was rooting for the Pacers in the ’98 Eastern Conference Finals and Kim Jung Un has promised to teach him how to shoot a 60 under par in a round of real-life golf.
Then let’s say that the North Korean interrogator looking for US Military secrets takes me out to a track and coerces me to run in constant circles until I talk. How long would it take me to open my mouth? 400 meters? 800? Is there anyone on Earth who could make it past 2400, or 6 laps, on a track without giving away American nuclear launch codes? James Bond? Maybe. But he’s European and also doesn’t look to be in all that good of shape so...his intestinal fortitude can't possibly be as high as his movies make it seem.
By now you get the point. Running was my most intense enemy. Running was my most hated adversary. Running was more evil than Hans Gruber’s lovechild with that alien Randy Quaid killed in Independence Day (way to be a beastialitist Hans). Running stood for everything that I did not want my life to become about: fitness, well being, caring about things other than my own alcoholism. Deciding not to eat McDonald’s breakfast 4x/week. Choosing not to wear sweatpants in public because you have between 2 and 108 Taco Bell Fire Sauce stains on them.
That was always the case. That was the case for my entire life. That was the case until I flipped my television to ABC last Tuesday night and caught an episode of Extreme Weight Loss: Home Edition featuring a morbidly obese engaged couple and their collective attempt to lose approximately 500 pounds between them before their impending nuptials currently scheduled for some 6 months in the future. Now sure, I’m damn near positive that the 467 lbs. man on the show pooped all over his tighty whities when he was asked to walk several steps in a row without dying during his first workout, and yeah at the end of the episode the woman, now skinny, jilted the man, also now skinny, and broke off their engagement, probably due to her sudden realization that there was more to life than eating Hungry Man dinners with a fat guy on her sofa, and duh, of course the fat dude still sounded like the Kool-Aide man even after he lost the equivalent of 7 grown-ups from around his stomach.
But you know what? Despite all of that I still found the show to be oddly uplifting. Pooping your pants sucks. Ending a 7-year relationship right when you can finally have sex without severely wheezing sucks. Still sounding fat on the phone even when you are not sucks. However, at the end of the day, what doesn’t suck is that these two people are alive now. However, at the end of the day, what doesn’t suck is that these two people had their lives saved.
That stuck with me as I sat there on my couch eating several Hungry Man dinners and watching a 467 lbs. man run a 4-mile race without exploding. Maybe, just maybe, having a body fat percentage below 68 is the manner in which we should all strive to live our lives. Maybe, just maybe, running can help us find a better way.
Maybe, just maybe, running is not as heinous an activity as I had thought it was. I had never thought this before. Now Extreme Weight Loss: Home Edition was showing me it was true. Running is torture. Running is agony. Running is pain.
And, you know what Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson says: “No Pain, No Gain.” I have never wanted to gain anything before. Now, for the first time in my life, I did. Now, for the first time in life, I wanted to gain the ability to run as fast as a 467-pound human tub of ranch dressing. Now, right now, for the first time in my life, I wanted to gain the ability to be skinny enough to not die.
Running is the price I must pay to be alive. For the first time in my life I am willing to figure out whether or not paying said price is worth the reward in the first place.
A Running Diary of the 1 Time I Physically Ran
In order to obtain the ability to be skinny enough to not die I devised a 1.2 mile loop, starting at my apartment, reaching its half-way point at a fairly nearby neighborhood tavern where I could run inside and drink enough Busch Beers to be hydrated enough to finish my effort on a warm day or find a bathroom and decide that life isn’t worth it anymore more, and finishing up at the parking lot behind my humble abode where I would more than likely be vomiting profusely on the hood of my neighbor’s Saturn. I have run said loop three times now. Here’s is my story of running said loop for the first, and shockingly not last, time. Nailed it.
Wednesday, July 1
4:17 P.M.-Complete a work call completely naked because 1-My employer allows me to work from home, 2-I started locking my front door so that the homeless man who is constantly walking into my house and taking copious amounts of canned green bean won’t be able to see me in my birthday suit, and 3-Someone called me right as I was about to put on my compression shorts so, like, you get what you get when you decide that I am someone worth talking on the telephone you know? Remember that solicitors, my parents, Barack Obama, and anyone else who thinks that phone calls are still an acceptable way to communicate with people in the year 2015. FYI, I tend to write most of my letters in the buff too. So….yeah…..
4:19 P.M.-Standing in my parking lot stretching my hammies with my body propped up against a wooden telephone poll. I’m not sure, but I am pretty sure, that it appears as if I am humping said telephone poll. My neighbor is taking out my garbage and he gives me a look and a head nod, as if to say “Getting freaky with this slab of wood huh? Who hasn’t been there right?” I now have a strong desire to go to my neighbor’s house next time he has a BBQ just to see what kinda stuff this old fella is into.
4:20 P.M.-I begin running, and very quickly, like after 4 or 6 “strides” I discover that I am both very winded and that I do not have the ability to bend my upper body in any way, shape or form. Literally. It won’t twist. It won’t loosen. It won’t relax. It’s as if every piece of my body above the waist is wrapped in the largest and most unnecessary collection of used Livestrong bracelets that the world has ever known. Why don’t people support Cancer research anymore? Fucking Lance Armstrong. Ruining the fight for a cure for everybody.
4:21 P.M.-I am running over a bridge that goes over Interstate 55 a block or two East of my apartment, and the traffic underneath me is at a standstill as I truck on under the chain-link metal they surrounded this pedestrian walkway with in an attempt to keep the copious amount of pigeons hanging out on top of it from swooping down and pecking some of the neighborhood’s smaller children to death. Everyone who is currently attempting to enter the state of Illinois is getting a full access view of fairly exposed calves. I’m not saying that some of those people got aroused enough to do stuff to themselves in their stalled Prius, but hey, I’m not not saying that either. So basically I am not saying that. Primarily because my calves are far from my best feature (hello upper back once it's the year 2020 and I hopefully saved enough money to get the hair lasered off of you). Secondarily because there’s a decent chance that my calves have now ruptured and combusted into a pudding like substance and I am simply in too much physical pain to realize it.
4:22 P.M.-Finally transverse the heart of the bridge and am now descending, about to exit back out onto the street when a man on the bicycle with no helmet turns the corner and starts cruising in my direction. I am running down the center of the path. The man is riding down the center of the path. There is plenty of room on either side for each of us to move to our respective right just a little bit and pass one other as we both go on our way without incident. I, logically, do my part and move over a decent amount to give this dude more space.
This dude, in a well hidden fit of homicidal rage, does not move over at all and continues on his track, barreling towards me with all his might as he intends to fulfill God’s will and murder me for audibly rapping “Right Above It” within the earshot of a copious amount of senior citizens. Finally, at the last possible moment, I literally turn and throw my chest against the chain-link fence as the guy with no helmet flies by me, inches away from running over my Achilles tendon and killing me in the exact same way that Orlando Bloom killed Brad Pitt in that movie where Brad Pitt kills a bunch of people and is naked a lot. Is that a movie or a dream I had? Both. Because I dream in movies. That’s why I see Tim Robbins face always every single time that I close my eyes. Susan Sarandon’s life partner is my favorite.
4:24 P.M.-I catch a glimpse of myself running in the window of a gift shop on 9th Street. My posture makes it appear as if I have the handle of a fishing rod jammed up my anus. Why am I so specific on the object that is potentially shoved up my anus and the way in which it would affect my posture? No reason. Little to no reason at all.
4:25 P.M.-I pass 1860 Saloon. There is a group of about 3 or 4 oldish men and women smoking directly outside the bar’s front door. “Hey!!” I yell within the confines of my own mine and not at all out loud. “I’m trying to run here, and you’re filling my otherwise pristine lungs with second hand smoke and what not!! Why don’t you go smoke in the bar and kill all the alcoholics the way that those genius who thought of prohibition wanted you too!!” I then pass the murderers and immediately wonder where I can go and smoke some crack.
4:26 P.M.-I reach Hammerstones, the halfway point, 0.6 miles from my apartment. I stop and collect my breath, heaving heavily, sweat covering my lower back in such a way that it very obviously appears as if one of the homeless man I passed on the street had very accurately peed all over it and nowhere else. I wouldn’t even be mad if this was true (it very well may be). I’d just be impressed. I’d just take this homeless fella out to Vegas and set him up as Britney Spear’s opening act, peeing in cups from hundreds of feet away with no drippage whatsoever. I’d just make all of this homeless man’s dreams come true.
I cross the street, walking with my hands on my hips and my heads down, legitimately wondering if Puff Daddy actually ran the New York City Marathon or if he just had a series of gigantic bodyguards carry him over the entire 26.2 mile stretch while he chugged breast milk from a Cambodian Immigrant. Did Puff Daddy actually ride out the marathon in a Hot Air Balloon? Was Puffy Daddy the first rich guy to invest all of his money into researching how to apparate Harry Potter style in real life? Because there’s no way Puff Daddy has the heart to run 43.666666666 times farther than I just did. I can’t live in a world where Puff Daddy has the heart to run 43.66666666 times farther than I just did. Nothing makes sense to me anymore!!
4:28 P.M.-The second half of the run is slightly uphill, which means that, based on my admittedly very rudimentary math skills, this 0.6 miles will be approximately 894,000 times harder than the 0.6 miles that came before it. At this point I am debating dropping down to all fours and running on my hands and feet because I am having a hallucination where Pat Robertson and Russell Wilson are simultaneously telling me that Jesus told them that he made Cheetahs run faster than people for a reason. For the first time in my life Pat Robertson and Russell Wilson are making a lot of sense. As soon as I get home I am going to go watch the 700 Club, swear off having sex with Ciara, get some American Family Insurance, and start leg pressing 2,000 pounds.
4:29 P.M.-I pass a fairly attractive girl who is walking the opposite direction on the street. I have had one positive interaction with a random attractive girl in my life, wherein a stranger in a graduate school class told me that I both looked and acted like Andy Dwyer, aka Chris Pratt’s character in Parks and Recreation. Now that I was running my hope was that I would be told that I both looked and acted like whatever the hell Chris Pratt’s character was named in Jurassic World. This girl, however, said nothing to me as she walked by with her headphones on and a tank top that may or may not have said “Fat Dudes With Neck Beards Shouldn’t Have Civil Rights.” Of course I know that this girl didn’t have a problem with my appearance. She just didn’t realize how much I looked like whatever the hell Chris Pratt’s character was named in Jurassic World because I wasn’t wearing that cool-ass vest Chris Pratt was sporting in the film and most people can somehow just tell by looking at me how little respect I have for animals, reptiles in particular.
4:30 P.M.-I pass a cupcake shop, and, once again, check out my figure in the window. Imagine if the Professional Wrestler Kane had gotten addicted to full fat string cheese and opium. That is how I look right now, and I must say…I ain’t hating it. Past my reflection and inside the store I can see a woman before the counter rise expectantly as I slow down near the Cupcake hawker’s front door. She can tell, even while I’m on the exterior of her building, that I am an easy sell. She probably already had a bacon, mayonnaise and Orange Gatorade Cupcake (my 3 favorite things...For Your Information) ready for me, just waiting for the second when I would pushed open the entryway and hear the shop’s welcoming chimes signal my arrival. “Well, hope you don’t work on commission lady,” I thought as I literally stood up and zoomed past the Cupcake stand. “I only mix bacon, mayonnaise and Orange Gatorade in smoothies now like all of the other healthy people in the world.”
4:31 P.M.-I once again approach the bridge, attempting to hurdle over Instate 55 and back into the real-world, the world where stillness is valued, the world where unnecessary movement is for rich people. The only problem? There is a literal gaggle of children in front of me crossing the very same bridge that I am trying to hoof across, 6 or 7 or 28 of them, all holding hands, with an adult—apparently the chaperone on their Summer Camp Field Trip to drink 157 beers and catch gonorrhea from the stools at Carson’s Sports Pub—bringing up the rear (not in a sex way you sick Sons of Beestings) and guiding them under the pigeons actively pooping through the holes in the chain-link fence and above the cars zooming past them below.
I am now faced with 2 choices: 1-Maintain my current “pace” and stampede between 3 and 17 small children as I endeavor to finish a 1.2 mile run by the record shattering 12-minute mark or 2-Slow down, don’t crush any children’s skulls, miss out on my first opportunity in life to ever feel good about myself for accomplishing something, and also avoid getting shanked in the mess hall of a maximum security prison in Potosi, MO. Being terrified of sharp objects, I obviously go through door #2, breaking my “stride” and slightly relaxing my body as I break into a kind of awkward looking speed walk designed for WWI veterans who are inexplicably still alive.
I continue my speed as I hit the walkway to the bridge and guess what? Not only am I failing to catch up with the children strolling ahead of me, but I am actually losing ground behind them as they walk on across the overpass. These kids are taking about 4 steps to every bodily movement I am able to muster. This is embarrassing. Damn kids with their tricks and foot speed. By the time I hit the crest of the bridge I am so far behind that I decide that I need to increase my clip. By the bridge’s exit I have hit a full sprint, or what constitutes a full sprint at this point, in an attempt to catch up to this drunken group of elementary-schoolers.
Within a couple of seconds I make it to back my alleyway. I look up and scan the landscape. The children are already out of sight.
4:32 P.M.-I reach the parking lot of my apartment and full body collapse onto the wooden telephone poll. My neighbor is still outside, now sweeping up the 4 inches that make up his back porch with a boom that is far bigger than the surface area he is trying to clean. He gives me an understanding look as I basically hump this slab of wood. This knows what kinda shit I’m into. This guy is into it too.
I nod back. The pain is finally over and I’m just glad that this total debasing of whatever what was left of my physical, mental and spiritual “pride” (not much) got something aroused inside of somebody. My neighbor is a weirdo. And, feeling the unusual stickiness of the telephone poll as I attempt to extricate myself from it, I am fairly certain that he is not the only one.