“You never can tell,” a co-worker said to me the other day.
We were standing at the water cooler engaging in the perfunctory “what did you do last weekend” chatter. I mentioned that I’d run a race of some sort, a 5k or 10k.
“You run?” he asked, a little too incredulously.
“Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of short races all year to get auto entry into next year’s marathon,” I replied.
“Hmmn…You’re a runner,” he continued, voicing one of those slimy sentences that is neither absolute question nor statement. “It just shows, you never can tell.”
I looked down at my empty water bottle, thinking that the possibility of dying of thirst might be preferable to this tedium.
Now, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I do not have a physique similar to Kenyan marathon runners, or most American marathon runners, for that matter. Even after training for and running a half marathon, there are not one but two digits in my dress size. But yes, I run.
There’s an odd thing that happens when you tell someone – be it your mother, an old friend, or a new co-worker – that you’ve been running. They place immediate expectations on your body. They may feel the need to inquire as to your regular distances and speeds. They might say something like: “Wow, that’s great; I couldn’t do that,” as if you’re some sort of special Olympian, rather than a curvy chick who likes both her miles and her mimosas.
The other day, an older friend asked me if I’d ever experienced the “runner’s high.” A regular exerciser but not a runner, this friend seems to grant the “runner’s high” the same sort of mythic position that others might give to simultaneous orgasm or female ejaculation. I replied that no, I really hadn’t, neglecting to mention a time when I’d felt uncomfortably on the verge of orgasm for the last two miles of six. Like a teenager unsure of that “feeling,” I couldn’t discern whether this was the much-vaunted “runner’s high” or simply some aggressive nipple rubbing on the part of an ill-fitting sports bra. Either way, I can’t say I really enjoyed feeling that tingle as I jogged around my local park.
What I do enjoy is another kind of high I get, anytime I have a run that’s not terribly marred by shin splints, a hangover, iPod technical issues, and the like. A chorus of “you-never-can-tells” resounds inside my head, an echo chamber of all those who’ve ever doubted my ability to run an eight-minute mile, finish a half marathon, or do much of anything in my almost 30 years. My feet hit the ground in rapid succession, over and over, mile after mile, and eventually, they drown out the noise. In perfect percussive harmony, they defend me by chanting: “Fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you, fuck-you.”