Why do people run?

by CJ

Last Saturday morning, Walter and I propped ourselves up against our pillows so that we could sip our coffee in silence. My husband’s face had taken on a hue of pale displeasure that said: “Why am I awake at dawn?” Poppy, the cause of our being awake at dawn, played contentedly on our bed, now and then shoving books into her father’s face or jumping on his crotch. Poppy was enormously happy to be alive. Outside, cheerful birds went tweet.

Suddenly, caffeine hit my bloodstream and I was filled with energy.
“My friends invited me to do an obstacle course adventure run.”
I showed him a picture of spandex-clad women running earnestly through a stretch of tires.
“I’m going to say yes.”

I hadn’t actually decided to do it, but was just airing the thought to see how it sounded.

Unexpectedly, my husband, who likes to remain corpselike till noon, became convulsive with glee.
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”. His smile began to radiate through his body until presently even his toes seemed happy to be awake. I could see his eyes raking over his wife in her tatty pajamas, imagining her as she rope-swung above a mud-pit. I saw too that the ridiculous images pleased him greatly.
“This is the last thing I’d expect you to do!” he added with enthusiasm, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you train.”

Help me train? I hadn’t even intended to do this darned thing, never mind take it so seriously that I’d need to change my sedentary ways. Yet I’d been naive. Walter’s true calling in life is to be a sports coach; he loves nothing better than to educate and encourage and drill. This man runs for fun and he assumes that the rest of don’t do so, not because running is Not Fun, but because we just don’t know how. I can’t believe I hadn’t remembered this before I’d opened my stupid, coffee-filled mouth.

So reluctantly, last night I allowed Walter to ‘coach’ me into finding my running shoes and going to the park to ‘train’. All the way there, he explained with energetic precision the way in which my muscles would combine with oxygen or whatever to help me fitten up. I bit my bottom lip and tried to pay attention, but was more interested in the fact that my running shoes are, genuinely, from the last century.

“Are you ready?” asked my husband once there, his eyes beading with the dark passion of a zealot. “On your marks, get set, go!”
And go I went, with fear (of disappointing Walter) in my heart and crusted dirt (from 1998) in my shoes.

You won’t be surprised to hear that a sack of rocks being dragged along the ground would’ve been more graceful.

Luckily my family made up for what I lack. Poppy jogged behind me, her bobbing torso providing extra locomotion for her legs, and her heart so filled with joy that she had to do jazz hands as she went. Walter ran abreast in great, elegant, springing strides. And Steppenwolf, that happy mass of dogginess, streaked past like a sleek, black arrow. On the sidelines, an old man and his dog sat on the grass and watched. Both laughed, but whether it was at me or with me was hard to tell.

The Diva Dash I’ve signed up for describes itself as “the most fun you’ve had in your running shoes.” Yet for me, that sets the bar absurdly low. As I type this today, every muscle in my body — even ones that have no business to do so — are seizing up.

Though my physical frame is weak, my mind is clear: unless you’re running for the bus or away from a charging elephant, why bother running? I really don’t know. Do you?