Spring has sprung and that's great and all, but pretty soon it will be summer and hot and gross and sticky and you'll be all sweaty just sitting down; forget about running eight miles for which, coincidentally, this Spotify list is perfect.
"Swing, Swing," All American Rejects
Laugh all you want, but I love this song. Love it. If you are a regular human being and not someone who thinks every single song ever recorded should have incredible meaning and require a Juilliard diploma to play and give off that Steely Dannish "dude, let's put this weird chord here" vibe, then it is impossible to scowl while listening to this song.
There are pump-up songs and there are distraction songs. For me, this one is a distraction; it reminds me of good times. Even way back when this song came out, I knew it was terrible, but it was oh so irresistible. Now it reminds me of keg parties, hanging out with friends who are now scattered across the country (who also made fun of me for liking this song), spring time, meeting my wife. Just real, good memories.
So when it comes on while I'm running, it takes me back to those moments and I can escape inside my head for three minutes. I'm no longer shuffling up a hill wishing I were dead. I'm playing Asshole with bunch of idiots. That's a much better way of getting the thing done. Remember: The goal here is to temporarily untie your brain from the passage of time.
"Radio," Alkaline Trio
This is a pump-up song.
Somewhat coincidentally, right around the time I got on this whole fitness jag, we also got a dog. We've had her for almost a year and I can't remember what it was like before her. I straight up talk to a dog. And then I straight up talk to an empty room because the dog's gone with my wife or something and I'm used to talking to a dog.
Anyway, the dog is exactly like me, except she is a she and she is a dog. The dog likes to run in pursuit of something: a ball, a squirrel, a piece of trash blowing in the wind like urban tumbleweed. She will run like a goddamned lunatic after any one of those things. But take her on a run, and she gets all what the fuck is thissss? She runs slower than me, a fat guy with two fewer legs than her. Anything that moves must be immediately investigated. She will stop and sniff literally everything. Hey man, you should really check out this leaf right here, smells pret-ty on point. [leash tugged] Aw, hell. My dog is Nick Nolte.
"Sowing Season," Brand New
But honestly, I'm the same way. I don't mind running when it's not the whole show. I will run up and down a court playing basketball and, sure, I get winded and tired and stuff, but I'm not running. I'm playing basketball. I'm focused on what's going on because there are other things going on apart from running. Like, how sweet it was when I dunked all over that guy. And how, when I tell the story about it, I will forget to mention that we were playing on eight-foot rims. Running as a component of something else is OK. Running to run is miserable.
"The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth," Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
As I've mentioned before, my wife is a capital-r Runner. But that doesn't really cover it all. She's actually insane. She is like Chris Treager. Her body is a finely tuned microchip and when she gets sick, which is rare, she becomes crazy. A couple weeks ago she got some crazy stomach bug that landed her in the emergency room. Two days later she was trying to run and do CrossFit. Like, she had to in order to feel like a normal person. And she did. And it was a disaster. More vomiting. More dizziness. More general malaise.
"Semantics of Sermon," Cursive
I've known she was like this for some time now, but it never ceases to blow my mind. When I get sick—my microchip is compromised much more often, too—I turn into The World's Biggest Baby. Make me chicken soup. Get me ice cream to sooth my sore throat. Let me watch The Price Is Right. More soup! More ice cream! And definitely, definitely just let me lie on the couch for at least one week and don't ever once think about doing anything that requires rapid movement. A blanket wouldn't hurt, either.
Give me any excuse not to run and I'm taking it. So's my dog. But my wife? She keeps track of her resting heart rate.
"When You Were Young," The Killers
"A Song For Our Fathers," Explosions in the Sky
I passed a guy on the trails today who is in much better shape than I am. What a feeling. It's the same one I get when I pass some dude in a Porsche on the highway when I'm driving my shitty Hyundai.
Me in Hyundai: [sees chump in Porsche, accelerates]
Guy in Porsche: [lights cigar with $100 dollar bill, snuffs out $100 bill with diamond dust, pays no attention to me.]
Me in Hyundai: [maintains same rate of speed with Porsche, car is visibly shaking from strain, cranks Steppenwolf, tries to make eye contact.]
Guy in Porsche: [lowers "An der schönen blauen Donau" so he can call stock broker, still ignoring.]
Me in Hyundai: [blows by Porsche, hubcaps barely holding on, speedometer has stopped working, senses weird smell all of a sudden. Tears down highway until Porsche is a speck in rearview mirror. Pulls into gas station.] Coolant?
Gas Station Attendant: $2.75.
It's the little battles. So what if that guy I passed was probably running 26 miles? I left him in my dust. I won whatever imaginary competition existed between us and I am therefore better at life. He may be a better Runner, but I am a better achiever of my goals and he never saw me sucking wind around the corner.
"Meet Me by the River's Edge," The Gaslight Anthem
Here's the real bitch about running: It's like traveling. When you know you're driving somewhere that is, say, eight hours away—which really turns into 10 because your wife and your animal companion become perpetually incontinent whenever they set foot or paw inside a car—the first couple hours go by in a flash and then the trip starts to drag on. If you're driving somewhere that's two hours away, you still have that relative framework, only it's like the first 15-30 minutes that go by in a flash.
It's the same damned thing with running. Earlier in the week, I had a three-mile run scheduled. It took me 27 minutes. But it felt like it took me two hours. The second mile alone felt as if I'd hit pause on my life. On my long runs, I don't even feel as if I've started until those same three miles are done. It's only when I reach, like, mile seven that I feel like I am driving through the desolate stretches of western Pennsylvania.
Why can't you just take that breezy, first-leg-of-a-run-or-road-trip feeling and carry it over to a length-appropriate trip? Imagine getting somewhere in two hours and it felt like nothing? If science can find a way to simulate that feeling, I will forgive it for completely shitting the bed on time travel.
"Immigrant Song," Led Zeppelin
The Breathing Method," The Get Up Kids
So far it's been glorious running outside. OK, sorry, that is hyperbole. I haven't yet acted on the harmful thoughts I've had while running outside. That's closer to the mark. It hasn't been so cold that the skin on my hands gets shredded and it hasn't been so hot that I would rather be on a treadmill. But I fear that time will come. I see it getting closer and closer as I chug along, trading mental health for physical. At some point it will become so thick with humidity outside that I will go back to that hideous mistress. Because I have to.
"A Real Hero," College
Part of the reason I signed up for this half-marathon is so I could prepare myself for a future half-marathon. I talked last week about wanting to know I could do a half-marathon before actually racing it. Well, this is like the macro version of that.
In November, my family went to Florida and we all participated in some parts of Disney's Food and Wine Festival. Me, my sister and my father did the 5k, and my brother and wife did the half-marathon. My mom watched because she's been sick. It was a big family togetherness thing, a sort of take-back-your-life deal. My wife had been talking about the Disney race for years since she saw it in one of her Running magazines and when I finally decided to get my act together, we signed up for it. The 5k was in the morning and the half-marathon was that night.
"The Weekenders," The Hold Steady
I ran my best 5k ever that day; I was so jacked up. It was the first real big race I ever ran and if you've never done one, there is a lot of waiting around beforehand. You can either stand there and listen to your own music (which I was saving for the race), listen to the terrible emcees they have, or just tune everything out. So I got lost inside my head for a bit and all I could think about was how crazy the last few months had been. I had already lost a lot of weight by then and I had no doubts I would finish or anything; it was just a matter of how long it would take me. Which in itself was a crazy thought for me. And so I was just waiting in this corral with a bunch of strangers, waiting to run and it was this truly bizarre emotional experience for me. It was the first time I had actually thought about where I was and how far I'd come and I swear to god I was almost crying. It was the craziest fucking thing I'd ever experienced. Here I was, this not-quite-as-fat-as-he-used-to-be guy and I was running in race with all these crazy runners. I knew my wife was watching and I knew she was proud of me. And I was proud of me. I had all these emotions and just pure adrenaline pumping once it started that I kicked the shit out of that race, relatively speaking.
"Titus Andronicus," Titus Andronicus
"Alachua," Hot Water Music
So, feeling satisfied with myself I decided to celebrate while waiting for my wife and brother to finish the half-marathon that night. Part of the deal with that race is you get admission to the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT after the race. So much wine and cheese and beer. So I camped out in EPCOT for a few hours before and tied one on. When my wife texted me that she was almost done—seriously she's crazy, texting while running?—I headed over to the finish line with my giant cup of beer and waited. They had a sound system set up so the runners could hear music as they approached the finish line. You know, to pump them up.
It was, I shit you not, a 20-second loop of the choruses from "Edge of Glory," by Lady Gaga, and some Katy Perry song I don't know the name of. I was there for probably 45 minutes, drinking and listening to that constant loop. Right there I decided I would run in that race next time, instead of getting drunk by myself, waiting and listening to that racket. But I needed to know I could run a half-marathon before doing that half-marathon, so this one coming up next month is the dress rehearsal. I don't want to be like my brother—who half-assed his training and never ran more than seven miles, and who find himself unable to enjoy all the booze and food because he was an extra from The Walking Dead once he finished.
"Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse," Minus the Bear
Obviously I talk about running a lot because this is a running feature (face) but it's only half of the equation. Running is definitely a lifestyle changer in that I am now not sedentary, but I also changed the way I eat and that's because I do Weight Watchers. I'm not going to tell you that it's great and that you should totally do it because it works because that would be just as silly as me telling you that you have to run. It works for me. Most importantly it's made me realize that there are consequences for what and how I eat. It's the dumbest thing, but calculating calories as "points" has been a total game-changer for me. I now understand what eating an entire bag of those mini Cadbury eggs means to my body. Obviously, I knew in theory that that was bad for me, but now that I know it is worth approximately 700 points, or roughly a week's worth of actual eating, I tend not to do that anymore.
"Bleed American," Jimmy Eat World
It's made me appreciate what I eat and it also incentivizes running. If I want to eat this homemade pizza, I've got to run today. Or something like that. I haven't really changed my diet so much as reduced the amounts of what I eat. I don't always do it perfectly and I cheat a lot, but I feel bad about cheating now, whereas before, I never even gave it a second thought. I had no conception of "cheating," I was just doing doing what I always did. Weight Watchers made it easier for me to understand than someone just yelling PORTION CONTROL at me. Just like running works better than DO BURPEES UNTIL YOU PUKE ACTUAL LIPIDS OUT OF YOUR FACE.
"Summer Stars," Taking Back Sunday
Lifetime is my springtime jam. This one's another anthemic ending to a run, but much faster-paced than Titus was last week. Used to be, this was a party song. I'd listen to it while drinking way too much Natty Light in a dorm room or while driving with the windows down once the weather broke. Now I listen to it while running. It's been a weird decade or so.