If Inception Is Possible, I Need ItS

This week, I'm quite certain you'll soon learn, I probably had a stroke from all the heat. Which I think is different from heat stroke, but what do I know? I'm not a doctor. I'm just a guy trying to make it in this crazy, mixed up runner's world. Here's a Spotify list for you. Please feel free to question my music and life decisions in the discussion section below.

"Bike Scene," Taking Back Sunday

This feature is supposed to be about a.) how shitty it is to run and b.) the various ways I try to distract myself from "a." When I first started writing about all this nonsense it was under the headline "How I Trick My Brain Into Thinking Running Isn't The Worst." I still trick my brain, but it's getting harder and harder to do. My brain is getting wise to all the not-so-clever tricks. I need to be Incepted, I think. The idea in the movie is that in order to get someone to do what you want, you need to make it seem like it's their own idea. "The subject can always trace the genesis of an idea," JGL says. "True inspiration is impossible to fake." I've had plenty of thoughts about fitness and health and running and whatever. Absolutely zero have been mine.

My wife, my family, doctors, magazine covers, the Reaper, society—they've all told me in one way or another that I need to clean up my act and get fit and do this or that to achieve it. And I've definitely listened, but no matter how earnestly I may feel, or how much of it I agree with from a rational position, it was never my idea.

"Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean," Explosions In The Sky

Now, even though it hasn't been my idea, I've clearly gone along with it and benefited but I still have this little bit of myself that's always holding on to something else. The do-nothingness of my former self is still something I look back on wistfully. I mean, think about it like this: Imagine you didn't do anything. For days. How is that not awesome? That had been my default position for so long it's impossible to tell if, deep down, it's part of my innate character or something that I developed. If it's something I developed, then it should follow that it's something I can un-develop. If it's something innate then I need Leo and JGL to start running around in my dreams to make me think running and getting in shape is something I am choosing for myself, not something I have resigned myself to.

"'97," Alkaline Trio

Have I already ruined it, though? I mean, if I come out and say I want to be incepted—I dunno if that's how one uses that word, but I'm going with incepted as a verb—I already know it's not my idea. Is there any level deep enough where they could conceivably plant the seed—I always wanted to look like a shirtless Brad Pitt in Troy—where I wouldn't be able to trace its genesis? I think I tried to incept myself and my waking subconscious is at war with itself and starting to piece it all together.

It's like, the idea of the projections attacking the dream invaders is bleeding over into my waking subconscious in the form of all my whining about running and how shitty it is. But instead of guns and explosions it's psychological: temptations and appeals to the lazy bit inside.

Me: I gotta get this run in, fast!

Subconscious henchman: [skiing down mountain, tosses something, appears to be dangerous]

Me: The fuck? A quart of Turkey Hill Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream? Wha...

Henchman: [removes skis, approaches, whispers] It is delicious.

Me: It is delicious. No! I have to run. Were you just skiing on a mountain?

Henchman: No, it's too hot to ski. Or run. Run tomorrow. Your legs are tired, anyway. And, Christ, is it hot. You don't want to sweat and struggle on the treadmill. It won't hurt to just chill out on the couch. Watch a movie, maybe.

Me: That does sound better than running but I can never decide on a movie. Besides, I have to run.

Henchman: Do you? Do you, really? Who told you that? Say, what about a Tom Hardy film?

Me: [now on the couch, wrist deep in tub of ice cream, talking to dog] Love Hardy. He seems so cool doesn't he? Like, I just want to hang out with him. Maybe drink some beers. Talk filmmaking, character development. I bet he's method. Did you see Lawless, I really enj—yeah, waitaminute, why do I all of a sudden "have" to run? What is going on here?

Dog: [staring at ice cream]

"Sultans Of Swing," Dire Straits

So basically, what I'm saying is, I need someone to make me believe that I truly think I need to run and work out and not just because I objectively know it is good for me.

Or just let me hang out with Hardy for a night. I'm cool with either of those two scenarios.

"All That's Left," Thrice

I need new sneakers. It's annoying, though, because I need two new kinds of sneakers. I need new running shoes and just regular old sneakers to wear everyday because I'm not yet comfortable wearing white socks, dress shoes and shorts/being every grandpa ever. I went to the store and had settled on a pair of running sneakers, I thought, but didn't pull the trigger. I felt like I'd be tempted to wear them as both everyday and running shoes. I don't know, that seems weird, right? It also seems weird that it seems weird.

Like, who cares if you use one pair of shoes to do both activities. Fucking Aragorn didn't switch boots between being a cool-ass dude smoking a pipe in the Prancing Pony and tracking the hobbits. He wore the same damned boots for both. So now, are you saying you're better than fucking Aragorn? You need two pairs of shoes because you somehow have highly specialized feet that require different shoes for different activities? Please tell me that's not what you're saying.

Also, reminder, Aragorn ran in boots, you fucking pansy.

"Jessie's Girl," Rick Springfield

On the other hand, we're living in the 21st century. We have evolved; things are very specialized. There are toasters specifically designed to toast bagels. There are at least seven different kinds of bottle openers. Why can't I have running shoes and regular shoes? One pair to get all grimey, disgusting and smelly and the other to comfortably show off what awesome style I have. Now, naturally if you could combine both these into one shoe that would be OK, but it can only go one way. You can have stylish running shoes but you can't have running stylish shoes. Stink and grime are not stylish.

"Fake Empire," The National

A terrible thought I just had: am I slowly laying the groundwork for my heel turn as capital-R Runner? Jesus, I hope not. I hope it's more me being a neurotic weirdo and not wanting to cross the streams, so to speak. Habit and order are important to me. A wall of separation should exist between the things I hate and the things I like. Running shoes, here. Shoes for literally anything else but running, here. It's not that I think running shoes are special. Quite the opposite, really. Or do I? Will this be just another in a handful of backstabbing deceits you look back on once I join forces with Shawn Michaels and we form the The Runners?

"Heat Of The Moment," Asia

I went to the gym just yesterday—a Saturday—a day I had basically given up on, a day I had previously written off even though it meant not getting in a scheduled run. But I got it in. I somehow managed to to do what I was supposed to do and I am proud of myself, like the character in a Chris Rock bit who takes care of his kids.

Anyway, I went to the gym and, I swear to God I am not making that heel turn again, this fucking guy was walking on the treadmill. I don't mean a brisk walk, or even a normal hey-I'm-just-walkin'-down-the-street-to-get-a-cup-of-coffee walk. I mean this guy toggled down from whatever the default walking pace is when you do auto-start on the treadmill. He did this after making a production of getting the channel changed on the TV in front of his machine. He walked there, slower than the slowest person who has ever had a purpose in life, for 2o minutes watching Highlander or something.

"Talking About Money," Wye Oak

"Twenty Miles," Deer Tick

This isn't a "you're wasting your working out time" complaint. I am of the firm belief that you gotta just do whatever it is you do. If it's walking on the treadmill, or lifting weights or doing weird shit with ropes and medicine balls—get nuts, do you. This is more of a "you're wasting your time working out" complaint. I mean, you could do like 3 jumping jacks in your living room, saving yourself the aggravation of having to go somewhere and watch TV in a place that is not your living room, and have gotten the exact same workout as doing the literal bare minimum required for forward movement.

"Unless It's Kicks," Okkervil River

I feel like kind of an ass because, who knows, maybe it's that guy's first day towards changing his life and I just happened to become obsessed with him for five minutes because it was better than thinking about running. And I just totally minimized it. Imagine he heard me say that. Imagine I heard someone say something like that on my First Day. I'd be done, my worst fears confirmed. But I didn't get that vibe from this guy. Seemed like he was just there to say he was there.

"Theme Song For A New Brunswick Basement Show," Lifetime

OK, fine, the TV thing really bothered me. I'm biased, whatever, fuck this guy.

"There Used To Be a Ballpark," Tim McCarver

This was a total hate-listen and it completely backfired. Like, possibly the worst idea I've ever had in the history of my ideas. I thought this would fuel me by anger—like listening to a Metallica song but tapping into a much, much darker place—and it just left me questioning whether, if necessary, I could be declared competent by a court of law. Hey, here's a real bang-up idea: listen to Tim McCarver belt out a few lines from the Great American Songbook. Did you know America had a songbook? And that it was great? Well, this guy you hate is going to sing these dopey songs and the anger is going get your heart rate pumping.

That did not happen. I spent the whole time listening to this song pissed off at Tim McCarver for making me think about how I had resorted to listening to Tim McCarver to distract me from running. Which simultaneously reminded me that I was running.

To whoever is going to try to incept me, all you need to do is plant the idea in my head that "Tim McCarver always thought I'm fine just the way I am."