“To Those Who Insist Upon Running,” by Nicholas Verykoukis

Jul 29th, 2015 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Some people have an elegant stride that turns heads while it enhances physical fitness. You do not. If you insist upon running in public, you need to listen to me because when I was seven years old I watched Frank Shorter and his mustache compete in the Olympic marathon on ABC television. I got up and ran around the block until my thighs wore new fringe into my Levi cords cut-offs. My PF Flyers were patched with blood. The feet on my striped Hang Ten tank top bounced and twisted over my sweaty orbs. So, listen to me when I tell you how to run so that you can be healthy without embarrassing yourself and making others uncomfortable with your arrhythmic gait, Volga boatman posture, wheezing grimaces, and crevice-seeking activewear.

To satisfy me, you should run only between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m. For no more than forty-five minutes. Longer than that and the paperboys and other night-shift types might see you and be shaken. Before you take your first shamble, you should call my house to make sure I am asleep; there must be no chance that I see you. Don’t worry, because whoever answers, even at that hour, will understand and be much obliged.

Certainly you should wear proper running shoes – I couldn’t live with myself if you were injured due to improper equipment. Although if that meant you would never run in public again, I would learn to live with myself just a little bit, only enough to survive. And without gloating or hurting your feelings, because this is first and foremost about what’s good for you.

Once you’ve found the appropriate shoes, you should consider your attire.
I suggest a dark robe and a hat. (The best ones are available at orthodoxarchimandrite.com.) Perhaps a mask, but not if you are cute enough to go maskless or if you live somewhere too hot for a mask, even in the early morning hours. The robe will disguise your misshapen silhouette until you improve enough to run without it. That day is far off, and I’m not holding my breath, so the robe needs to come all the way down to your ankles. If you want to wear one of those belts studded with little water bottles, be my guest, just remember that those belts can be tricky to operate even on a robeless, hatless, daytime run. OK?

In my view, a superior alternative to running gloves is to grip back issues of Runner’s World in your hands. They will provide you with ballast (admit it, you list sharply at times) and sweat absorption without making you look like some kind of wide receiver wannabe. It should go without saying that your underclothes should securely harness any pendulous body parts.

My thoughts on form are limited but crucial: keep your core engaged so your midriff doesn’t buckle and sway like a broken fun ride. Beyond that, you can talk with one of those young, taut, optimistic people who work in the running shoe stores about how to run even somewhat competently. Just because it’s imperative that no one see you running doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep striving for a less torturous gait.

Sports psychologists are correct when they say that visualizing your goal is vital to achieving it. You know that gazelle-ish cross country team you admire on your morning commute? You know those champion triathletes who allow rivulets of feces to meander down their legs as they approach the finish line? Shoot for something between those two. With great effort and several years of practice, you may be able to run in full daylight. Though probably not in my line of sight.

My advice, based on my personal experience with the Olympic running of world-class champion Frank Shorter, will give you the opportunity to become a locomotis perfectis without bothering others. That is world-class altruism. Maybe one day, when your friends say things like, “There’s a great 10-K this weekend,” you can say, “I think I’ll join you.” But that’s a long way off.

Defenestration-Dapper GentlemanNicholas Verykoukis practices clinical social work and lives with his family in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. To William Carlos Williams’s assertion that one’s profession and one’s writing mutually enhance one another, Nicholas would reply, “Uh, yeah, I guess so.”

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