Sunday, April 17, 2011
Professional Running and a Beard
I'm sure you have heard the joke:
"What's the difference between a teacher and a pizza? Answer: The pizza can feed a family of four."
I like it, not only because it's almost true, but I can apply it to a lot of things I spend my time doing. Consider my running. I've logged thousands of miles. I've worn out pairs of shoes. And I've raced in probably fifty races by now. And the difference between me as a runner and a pizza is...? You guessed it. I couldn't sustain Ghandi with what I make as a runner. I could put a shirt on his back, but that's about it.
Except for last night. I won forty bucks in prize money at the Sabino Canyon sunset race for finishing first in my age group and fifth overall! Yes, I brag. And if you ever read Runner's World or know any runners, you will quickly find that runners are probably the humblest braggers you know, in a proud sort of way. They brag when they run well. When they run poorly, they don't quit. They put their shoes on again the next morning and hit the road in prep for a future race. That's the humble nature of runners.
When they run well, the endorphins last long past their shelf life. You literally believe you could take Everest if given a chance. (I think our bodies were designed to be sore after a race just so God could prevent a misguided runner from actually taking a hike up Everest in a state of delusional euphoria. Lactic acid can bring you back to reality, quickly).
Just observe a local marathon someday. See how the runners who fared well behave after the race. They bounce around on blisters, high-fiving everyone and cheering on the later runners. They will gladly pick up all the cups that fall when tired runners collapse into the water table trying to reach a cup at the finish line. And they will invariably take their shirts off. They are bronze. They are sweaty. This is the bragger inside every runner. (As an aside, the later runners at the finish don't take their shirts off. It's a strange phenomenon).
But of any athlete I know, runners have the right to brag when they do well. The training is hard. The competition is painful. The outcome is variable. Few sports induce pain in the preparation, competition, and recovery stages. Running is one of them. I think boxing is another, or rowing, or cross country skiing, and probably figure skating and ice hockey, okay so maybe there are many sports defined by their monopoly on pain. However, when is the last time you saw a hockey player turn around and high-five his opponent just after he smashed him into the glass? Runners are friends with the competition. For a really amazing story on this see: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/born-to-run-the-marathon/. Just drop down to the part the reads, "And then I saw Derartu Tulu," and go from there. You won't waste your time with that article like you are doing with this blog.
So you see, runners are your friends, in any walk or run of life. Can we just please brag when we do well? I promise you won't get tired of it because it won't happen often. Holding back the happy effects of the runner's high is like trying to tell Santa to stop "Ho-Hoing." A physiologic impossibility.
So there I was last night under the full moon in Sabino Canyon National Park, high-fiving and picking up cups to put in the trash. And I was proud to be able to feed a family of four, even if only for one night. And no, I did not take my shirt off.
As a post script I wanted to mention the satisfaction of a beard. There is nothing better than trimming one. When trimmed, I look down into the sink, see my clipped hair and think: "I know I'm lazy and have much to be desired but at least I can count on you, hair, to keep on trucking away, 24-7." If only I could work as hard as hair.