But what’s funny is the way things go down.
Like when a star dies it doesn’t make a single sound.
It’s just gone, you can’t find it
when you look into the sky
— bob schneider
It’s Friday morning. I’ve been up for an hour. I have had my ritualistic oatmeal, managed to wipe out another perfectly good set of Mo pencil drawings with coffee that feels no moral obligation to remain in the cup, and I’m eyeing a banana on the counter. It’s the same pre-run ritual I have had for 40 years or so.
Except I’m not going for a run. I’m just walking.
I flash back to the Bloody Basin 100. It also featured a 50 miler, so at the start line, when runners were asked which distance they were in for, most were saying “Oh, just the 50 miler.” Badge of shame. I feel that these days, because I’m not running. I’m just walking.
The weird thing is, a 14:45 pace lands me in threshold territory. My heart thinks I’m in the middle of a hard 10K and pushing for the finish line, even as I get passed by ducks during my morning stroll. I am putting out the same exertion as I always have. I’m just slower.
So what am I? I’m not a runner; I’m a ghost. I don’t feel like “walker” describes what I do. I’m not coordinated enough to prancercise. The Cool Running pace calculator says a 14:45 pace will land me 97.62711864406779 over 24 hours. If I covered that much in a day, I would call it a run. I guess. But 3 miles? I call it an old guy out for a walk.
Are you still an athlete if you do your best but your best isn’t very good? “You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years,” the prophet Parker said. But what if you’re on the other side of the escalator? You get slower and slower, haunted by the memory of feeling like a gazelle as you lumber along in hungry hippo mode. How do you explain it to your head?
Maybe it’s best to leave the head at home. Make the dog loop the domain of the legs and the heart. Three miles in the bank that you’ll never withdraw. Run? Walk? Saunter? The prophet Mojo once said if you have to walk, walk like you mean it. And I do.
“The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body,” the prophet Sheehan said. I am painfully self-aware these days. Why does running have to be so quantitative?
I write this blog post a lot, because I think about it constantly these days, even though there’s not an answer. I’m not even sure there’s a question. Oh, well. I’m not a big fan of mortality.
I get a second cup of coffee, eat the banana, check the weather. Time to go out for a run.