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Well, not all of them, but we runners do tend to be a self-important lot, myself included.   Last week I went running outside.  I strapped on my super dorky hydration belt so I would have no excuse to stop running because sometimes I quit early due to thirst.  I packed a chapstick in the little pouch on the side of my super-dorky hydration belt, and I set out for a long run in the beautiful sunshine.

I have never been much of an outside runner for a number of reasons that I will now list:

  1. I have a huge fear of getting lost.  I am very good at finding my way home once I’ve been somewhere, but I am horrible with maps, and do get lost frequently (this is a constant source of shame, but is made better by the fact that plenty of Native Rhode Islanders admit to getting lost all the time.  Therefore, it’s not me, it’s Rhode Island).  Usually I get lost when driving, but that’s mostly because I never venture that far from home on foot. Since I’d be covering more distance running, thereby increasing the odds of getting lost, I just don’t go outside.
  2. I like a lot of gear, and I hate carrying it.  Aforementioned dorky hydration belt alludes to this.  I like having access to water while running.  I also like to be able to put on chapstick.  Once I start doing really long runs, I’ll probably want to bring some kind of treat with me so I don’t crap out fourteen miles from where I live.  I don’t know how distance runners can just leave their house with nothing, and come back twenty miles later.  Maybe they don’t actually do that, but I rarely see anyone else wearing a super dorky hydration belt like mine when I’m out and about.  My treadmill in the basement has a beverage space, a spot for chapstick, and I clipped a towel onto it–everything I need, none of the weight.
  3. I get sick of the attention.  The reason I run is because I like to be both active, and left alone.  I’m not a team player, and I run to clear my head and appreciate solitude.  I can’t get that when I get honked at by passing vehicles, or cat-called.  Honestly, I look terrible when I run, so I don’t know why anyone would “holla” at me, but they do.

Despite these setbacks, I started running outside last summer in preparation for the 1/2 marathon I did in October, and found that it can be quite wonderful.  There’s scenery! Sunshine on my shoulders does make me happy!  There are gently rolling hills that make my venture back to my house all downhill, which makes me feel like I’m flying!  Plus, I’m much faster outside, and that makes me feel badass.  I don’t think I’ll ever be a year-round outdoor runner, but it’s nice for the temperate months.

The other thing I love about running outside, is the solidarity head nod that you get from other runners.  It reminds me of the one finger wave people do in the Midwest, or the “hey, you also drive a bus” honk that I experienced in the Virgin Islands.  I came back from my long run flush with glee at having received the solidarity head nod three times, plus one wave from a old man wearing a Providence College track jacket.

Then I went back out for a few more runs, gave the solidarity head nod, and received no recognition of any kind.  My running route is fairly popular, and as I’ve mentioned before, is favored by superfit assholes who romp gazellelike and seem not to sweat.  Apparently, they also do not nod.  I received my nods when I went running at a different time of day than I usually do, perhaps that’s another part of the equation.  I was wounded after several of these people spurned me, but I’m taking a “whatever” approach.  They don’t want to give me the head nod, that’s their loss.

Another way that I’ve found runners to be self-important, is in that almost hipsterish way of “well, you don’t do this like I do it.”  This is rarer, as most often when two runners meet it becomes a total dorkfest of pacing, protein, stretching talk, but every now and then, you encounter a smug superiority that is obnoxious and judgy.

There is a fairly new book called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe of Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has never seen.  Basically, the title sums up what it’s about–a hidden tribe of superathletes, and ultramarathoning.  There’s also some interesting stuff about evolution and physiology, but the gist is in the title.  One can safely assume that this is a book that would mostly appeal to those of the running persuasion.  Someone called the library recently to put this book on hold, and I mentioned that it was very interesting.

“You’ve read it?” she asked.

“Yes, it made me feel very lazy.”

“Oh, well I run.”

I’ve told this story to a couple people who don’t seem to understand the level of my outrage, and who also asked me why I didn’t just explain to the woman, “I also run”, but that’s not the point.  The point is that this is what runners do, they just assume that no one else runs even though EVERYONE runs these days.  Implied in her terse statement was “I won’t feel lazy like you did when you read this book because I am superrunner who will more likely feel this book is speaking her unique language, and I will put it down feeling fulfilled and special not like you, sedentary reader.”

I did a similar thing to a woman whose blog I read.  For whatever reason, I have a fascination with reading people’s weight-loss blogs.  Thanks to my google reader, I now follow five.  There’s one in particular that I’ve been following for quite a while even though it’s horribly written (the woman cannot spell, repeats herself all the time, and if I met her in real life I would not like her at all). Recently in her weightloss journey, she started running.  She started doing the couch to 5k program, and I mentally encouraged her.  Then, like three weeks later, she announced that she was doing a 1/2 marathon in two months.  This filled me with rage.

There is nothing I hate more than people just deciding on a whim that they’re going to do a long race without having any clue how much time and effort is involved in preparing.  Two days later, she posted another blog about how hard running is, and I went off on her.  I was polite in my comment, but I also told her, “yeah, running is hard.”

Runners are probably jerks because they’re both proud of their accomplishments, and protective against fakers.  This makes sense to me.  Not returning the solidarity head nod makes no sense, but is something I’ll just deal with.

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

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My dad used to always make jokes about which of us kids he and mom would come and live with once they get old and infirm.  “I can’t wait until you get to take care of me, Annie.” he’d guffaw over and over never thinking it was less funny that the twelve times he’d said it before.

I’ve been feeling a bit bad lately because I haven’t spoken to my parents in more than six months.  Occasionally, I get the guilt-inducing email from my mother asking if I’m alive, but I haven’t called them and they haven’t called me.  I simply refuse to feel terrible for not calling when if they really wanted to hear my voice, they certainly could make that happen.  I also suspect that there’s another reason that they’re not calling.

Obamacare.

They know exactly where I, the underemployed, uninsured public servant with two masters degrees stands on the healthcare debate, and  I suspect that actually speaking to me, even if we talk about other things, might make things a bit uncomfortable.  I avoid talking politics with them as much as possible because it doesn’t get us anywhere.  My mother used to pick fights with me during the Clinton administration, but has since backed off, possibly because on the eve of W’s re-election she was having a crisis of Republicanism, and we actually had an intelligent, respectful debate.  Prior to that, our political discussions often went something like this.

INT. KITCHEN DAY

ANNIE and MOTHER are sitting at the kitchen table.  Annie, a junior in high school, is eating a bowl of Lucky Charms and working on the crossword puzzle.  Mother is reading the newspaper.

MOTHER

The only reason gay people want to get married is so that they can take advantage of health insurance benefits.

ANNIE

Oh?

MOTHER

Of course it is.  Why else would they be making such a bit deal out of it?  It’s ridiculous.  They could just get better jobs and quit pushing for something so unnecessary and wasting everyone’s time.

ANNIE

Why did you get married?

END OF SCENE

Eventually, she quit picking on me because even as uninformed as I was, logic flew in the face of everything that she held so dear.  That comforted me; it made me believe that my parents were still rational beings.

Then tonight I got a phone call from my brother, which began with, “do you know where our parents were last night?”

Since I don’t know where my parents are most nights, I said no, and pictured some kind of lame church function.

“I got a phone call from  Mom telling me that they had just attended their first Tea Party meeting.”  My brother went on to say that recent conversations with them have revolved around how that poor Sarah Palin was treated by the media, and how awesome Glen Beck is, but even knowing this (and keeping it from me), he truly did not believe that it would come to this.  I skimmed an article recently talking about how latest polls show that Tea Baggers are more educated and erudite than the earliest incarnations of the movement (and I do mean bowel), but I seriously did not believe that my parents would buy into this.

My parents have always been conservative.  They took down a lovely studio portrait of my brother and I and replaced it with one of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, but I still thought there was a germ of reason in their heads.  “You have to fix this,” I told my brother, “You’re their favorite. They’ll listen to you”

“I’ve kind of given up these days.” he told me, “It’s like nothing I say gets in there at all.  They just kind of blink and repeat themselves.”

This is probably not what my father had in mind when he said that I’ll need to take care of him one day, but that’s really the place I’m taking it.  I have no idea what to do about this, or if something can be done, or if maybe this is just the time to  take our estrangement to the next level; but I’m feeling a range of emotions that must be similar to those that Nancy Kerrigan felt when she got clubbed in the knee and just kept screaming “Why?!”

I’m struck dumb.