Running is very useful; it is also very stupid. Let’s fight about this.
I’ve never felt runner’s high. I think that’s a lie perpetuated by Big Run, the short-shorts wearing, defined quad having, sinewy musculatured stepchild of Big Tobacco and Big Oil. However, running allows me to enjoy eating an entire large pizza and as many donuts as I can carry, which is quite a bit. Did you know that if you run four miles around a mountain town, you can eat your body weight in pastries because calories don’t exist at altitude after a jog? Yup! Thanks, science. Still, I think running is the dumbest thing that I do all the time.
Unlike skiing or mountain biking, there is no point on a trail or road run where the participant yells out in pure unadulterated joy, zero exclamations of happiness, nada barks of woohoo. Right now, some of you might be saying, “Hold up, PaddyO. I yippee all the time when running.” Well, I hate to break this to you, pal, but you’re a loon. You’re like those folks speaking in tongues inside mega churches. Sure, there’s a smile on your face, but there’s craziness in your eyes. You can’t be trusted.
Typically, during the uphill on skis or a bike, I question my intelligence as campfires are set ablaze inside my chest and I gasp for air harder than a Jazzercising fish out of water. When I go for a run, I feel as if I am carrying a washing machine on my back and dragging an old timey wooden boat anchor from my waist. The closest my grill gets to smiling is wide-mouthed face contortions while hacking out the lung butter. And then comes the downhill, and the beginnings of a smile break through the grimace.
But then I think of the equipment shortfalls. My disdain for running is encapsulated within the only equipment truly needed for the activity: the running shoe. Now, sneakers are pretty cool, especially retro runners. A fresh pair of Nike Cortezes look pretty slick. The same is true for the original Waffle Racers. My dad once hand-me-downed a pair of Nike Air Icaruses that were all gray save for the salmon swoosh, perhaps my most coveted pair of shoes ever (even though after years of yard chores they smelled like a microwaved adult diaper filled with kimchi and lutefisk).
But they are a laced-up lie. Running is not, and will never be, fun. It can’t be. It’s just too painful, especially for an oversized human like myself. Maybe it would be enjoyable in low gravity. Or if I was adorable Tom Cruise / jockey size. But I am 6’5″ and 240 pounds of Colorado transplanted Midwestern mustache. When I run, the earth shakes—as do my joints and skeletal structure—and I sound like an asthmatic elk.
Still, I run. and here’s why:
Running makes me feel good, not during the act, but slightly before and definitely after. If you’re like me, there’s a voice in your head that tells you not to do hard things, that whispers there’s an easier way, a shortcut, or an excuse to say no to trying. I love to punch that voice in the gut. I love to confront things I am either afraid of or uncomfortable with, or both. Doing something that is hard, that is painful, that the voice of “no” tells me not to do helps me chisel away the parts of my character that don’t serve me. That is why I run and I run often, even though it sucks.
This spring, I even started to come around on the gear. I bought a new pair of sneakers that I truly love, the Hoka Speedgoat 4. They’re my third pair. I used to think that Hokas were the most ridiculous, chunky Steve Madden-looking shoes ever. And then I ran in them. Turns out when you’re a larger than normal human, your knees really appreciate the extra cushion, the comfy fit, light weight, and solid tread. I get Icarus-excited when I take a new pair of Hokas out of the box.
These shoes are my favorite piece of new gear to hate because they force me to participate in a sport I despise even though I really also love it. I think I’ll run in Hokas until the end of time, or until I find a less painful sport that allows me to devour a sleeve of bagels and paintcan-sized tub of cream cheese without feeling ashamed.
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