Ten Things I Love About Running
Spring is in the air, which mean lactic acid is in my quads: it’s running season again.
I mostly spend my time in this column talking about entertainment, but a lot of my life consists of doing stupid physical things like flogging my body over 26.2 miles of pavement in the hot (…and sweaty, and painful) pursuit of a “free” bottle of Muscle Milk and a medallion stamped with “Finisher.” I’m not sure why I do this. Running that far doesn’t yield any more fitness benefit than running half that distance. It hurts a lot. It uses up a lot of my disposable time. It may be a mental disorder. I guess it’s better than meth, but it’s probably still an addiction. I once went to my sports-medicine doctor with an injury complaint and he said, “I’d tell you to stop running for six weeks, but I know you won’t do it. Runners don’t listen to that advice.” He was not wrong.
I ran my first half-marathon of the 2019 season this weekend. Let’s not talk about my training regimen except to admit that I went up to the start line very well rested. Not six weeks rested, but also not six weeks honed. The first time out after a break is always fun, in the same way that doing your tax returns is entertaining: you always look back in horror on the foolish ways you spent your resources and look forward in horror to the endless desert of poverty in front of you. Then you drink a beer.
In honor of running and April 15, I submit to you dear readers my own personal Top 10 List of Things That I love About Road Races.
- Bruce Springsteen. Every time. USATF contractually requires all events to blast “The Boss” at top volume at least 14 times during pre and post-race soundtracks, always at no less than 140 decibels.
- Porta Potties. Satellites. Temp Toilets. Whatever you want to call them. There’s an entire strategy here. Do you sidle up to the singleton standing alone in the parking lot that has only 6 people in line? Or do you trudge to the end of the Black Friday-esque queue forming at the fanned-out bank of 40 at the staging area, hoping that the economy of scale wins out before your breakfast demands exit? (New definition of Brexit? Just as messy as the old one.) Choose wisely, my friend.
- That pre-race smell. It’s the scent of watching the sun rise while standing in a corral of shivering, slightly sticky people who reek of oxybenzone and BenGay, with just a whiff of sweaty nylon. I call it “Corral No.5.” I wish I could call it “Corral No.3,” but I’m not that fast.
- That person who’s outfitted themselves like a member of Seal Team Six—hydration pack, fourteen electrolyte gels sticking out of a race belt, knee-high compression socks, a knee brace on one leg and a spider web of KT tape on the other, a running watch the size of a grapefruit, Bluetooth earbuds that you can hear Springsteen through from several feet away, and a quart of water strapped to each hand. This is only a 10K and there’s 6 aid stations…You know that, right?
- All the Very Good Boys (and Girls) who have four paws and wagging tails and who wait with their people at every turn-cone on the course. I want to take them all home and pet them forever.
- All the Very Good Boyz who run super-fast in short-shorts and no shirt-shirts. I want to take them all home and pet them for an hour.
- Adding machines. Where else do you see these anymore? My mom used to balance her checkbook with an adding machine…in 1993. But they show up at every timing mat, manned by some race volunteer’s 14-year-old kid who has no idea that this machine ever did anything besides shudder out a list of bib numbers.
- Electrolyte gel shots. Ugh. Nothing like fighting down a viscous glob of goo through mile-nine drymouth and then burping up salty slicks of “Boston Cream Pie” for the four miles after that. Gel shots settle the argument—the whole point is to swallow them. If you can.
- The old guy who’s way faster than you are. In my case, that’s the old guy who has distinctive scars from two knee replacements and who I estimate started getting social security when I started getting puberty. “Old guy,” can also mean “old lady who weighs 79 pounds,” “person running in a gorilla suit,” or “that dude with the John 3:16 flag.” Did I mention that I start in corral 5?
- “Sprinting” down the finishing chute at a pace that would make Jesse Owens puzzle and ask, “Is she supposed to be…running?” but trying to pass it off as “a strong finish.”
Denver is an “outdoorsy” town with more races than you could ever want to do. If you want to be bored while owning a reusable grocery bag, run the Colfax Marathon. If you want to be wholesome, do the Cherry Creek Sneak. If you want to be dead, do the Boulder Ironman. Any of these and many, many more will get you the bliss of solitary training that culminates in the massive group experience of race-day running. There are a lot of groups that sponsor and produce running-based events; I’ve always had good experiences with Racing Underground as a producer, and you can also find a large calendar of other producer’s events on their site, too. Pick an event and have an adventure!
I’ll never win a marathon, or probably even a 10K and that’s O-K. I run because I like the simplicity and challenge and solitude of it. It’s good for mental health, as long as you don’t spend your 3-hour training runs pondering the source of all your shortcomings and finding it to be yourself. If you *do* find yourself doing this, maybe just stick to the Color Run.