Mules On Parade

(Ed. note: bumped from the FanPosts)

I'm running the Music City Half-marathon on April 28th. I have no real idea why, but I suspect it's because after more than a year and a half of doing nothing but lifting weights and lifting heavy, I realized I was missing something essential from my life: doing something I'm really terrible at, and doing it in public. (No comments about sports blogging. I have been paid for that, bad or not. No one's ever paying me to run.)

Running is that thing. My first distinct memory of organized education is a field day in kindergarten. I was running in some kind of sprint, and off the line I closed my eyes and ran with the kind of abandon only a five year old can muster. I imagined being Rene Fromage, the goat from Animalympics. If you watched this on prehistoric cable, the mere memory of Rene will ignite some heavy emotional tinder in your brain, so don't watch the clip below. It will make you weep.

I was not Rene. I opened my eyes halfway through the race, and saw everyone pulling away from me. Most people realize their dearth of athletic talent later in life. Most high-schoolers secretly believe they could walk on to any team with a month or two of spotty but intense gym time. (Montage!) More adults than you think still believe this.

I knew at five years old. Slow as shit was the preset. It would be for life. I read a long and painful description of a women's workout once called "The six month assbuilder." The title alone demanded a read, but the text did not disappoint thanks to a bracing honesty. The intro, paraphrased.

First, be honest: do I really want to do this? This process is VERY PAINFUL. The results will vary greatly, and may be marginal if your genes have given you less than they gave others.

Then the book went on to describe a hellstorm of squats and lunges that would cripple anyone daft enough to try them. I did the first day once just to see how bad it was. I couldn't sit without wincing for a week.

Fortunately, I already have an ass made for squatting and a deep level of comfort with my complete lack of speed. The clock never lies. My 40 is a 6.09. Even with horrendous track work, it will never be anything but molasses in cleats. The fastest mile I've ever run--30 pounds lighter, unemployed, and probably in the grips of what you might call an eating disorder--was a 7:48. I threw up hammers afterwards.

Given a slowness an NFL combine trainer once called "amazing," why run at all?

I don't know. It's not weight, since after an initial drop the body adjusts to everything but the more extreme of running routines. It isn't because I've never done it, since a leisurely 2:20 trot through the ATL half a few years ago taught me the miseries of having to shit at mile seven when the next bathroom is at mile nine. (Fuck you, race planners. Fuck you so very hard for that.) It's not to overcome physical issues that stopped me from running altogether three years ago, and which were fixed with some form tweaks and shoes that did not stuck.

I have no idea why I'm running the race, but I did sign up. You understand a frighteningly low amount of what you do in any given moment. I run slow, ugly laps around East Atlanta, Decatur, and Kirkwood. Yellow pollen dust is everywhere. The first two miles are horrendous, and everything feels old, strained, and full of a bored, bottomless, shitty despair. After four miles, though, I feel like I could do it forever. Not a cheetah, not a gazelle, or even a talented goat, but an ugly-ass mule too stupid and thoughtless to stop and question itself.

I never understand when people say "I" enjoyed a run. If I do it right, the first person isn't there at all. There's just the mule, the road, and breathing. If there's an "I" in there at all, then it's been beaten into happy submission, and is a mute rider on the animal at work. Mules do slow, patient work without breaking down or stopping. It is all they can do.

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