It won’t be a surprise to you to learn that I have a disease. It may be a surprise to you that it didn’t originate from Singapore. I was infected sometime about July 1999 in a small northern Michigan community. I had full blown symptoms the following spring. There were no “bathhouses” involved, no toe tapping, no George Michaels so – WHAM! – get those thoughts right out of your head.
No, it’s not Chronic Handsomeness either thankyouverymuch. It’s not even mild Pancreatic Hirsuteness. It’s running. I’m stricken. Someone gather my friend* and family and hook me up to a Gu I.V. I’ve been ill for over 12 years and the symptoms are only getting worse.
- Long periods of raging symptoms followed by shorter periods of (post-race) remission? Check.
- Inability to concentrate (on anything but training plans and paces)? Check.
- Preoccupation with inconsequential things (such as the elevation levels of a city’s streets)? Check.
- Explosive diarrhea? Of course.
- Inability to control my vulgar language? Fuck yeah.
- Change in body disposition? How high do you want that quarter to bounce off my ass?
- Change in temperament? Do I seem stable to you?
- Engages in hopelessly repetitive and damaging behavior? Want to watch 'Spirit of the Marathon' again?
I’m a first generation runner in my family. I come from an athletic clan too but usually they were chasing balls of some sort. I’ve evolved to the point where I don’t need balls to engage in a sport. Er, I don’t use balls…I mean, I don’t have any need for balls. Look, I have balls, okay? Stop badgering me.
Like patient zero, I’m runner zero in my family. Whoever is infected with the disease from here on out, well, it’s my fault. Being runner zero, the rest of the extended family generally has no idea what it takes to train, run a race, recover, work on speed, etc. We’ve all heard the “what distance is your marathon?” question. We’ve all heard a family member announce proudly that they are walking a “marathon 5k” for charity. My mother thinks the Gu packets I take out the door with me are some sort of illegal steroid. My dad has always told me that it’s good to be a little overweight…provides extra substance to your body to help fight illness. They both look at me sideways when I get noticeably gaunt (i.e. “fit”) as race day approaches.
No, the extended family doesn’t get it. I guess it’s probably the same way that the African guy, who came home with that satisfied look smelling of monkey sweat, must have been treated. It’s strange; it’s different; I’ll be gone tomorrow afternoon too.
In this case, I’m hoping the illness is carried by at least one, if not both, of my kids. Like any disease carrier, I’d like to spread it to as many people as possible. In fact, I’ve been trying to make running “cool” for my kids (who seem to think everything I do is “lame” and usually just look at me and say “Really?” in a disgusted tone). So, as I strap on my Asics, I cry out “Yo yo, I’m going for a run, bitches!” That’s cool, right? Plus, I made up a little rap to explain my disease-like devotion to running in hip Generation Z vernacular:
I’m heading out the door
No, that’s not a cold sore
It’s not Herpes simplex one
It’s Herpes simplex RUN!
Cool right!?! They scoff and eye-roll but I know they’re impressed that I came down to their level. See how I make running cool for the next generation? Yep, this disease should spread in no time.
*clerk at Blockbuster