I'm saying I got back on the pony because calling what I did "getting back on the horse" is an insult to horses. Anyway, there is a mini-playlist that we will get to for your enjoyment and then next week, I am back on the horse, for real. We don't need this turning into Relapsing Fatass Soundtrack.
After the half-marathon, I took a week off from running because I am an adult and I can do whatever I please. I got back into the game very, very, veeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrry slowly the following week. And then I basically took another week off because I am a manchild.
That first week back, though, I went on a series of short runs with my wife and my dog. It was an absolute delight. The running was still terrible and I mostly hated it, but it was nice being part of what was basically a more realistic chewing gum commercial.
My wife runs with the dog more than I do because, well, she runs more than I do. She also lets the dog off the leash while she runs and I don't. I love when my dog is off the leash, don't get me wrong, I just worry that when she's running—literally like a wild animal—that she will be less inclined to heed my commands when I say "No! don't chase that squirrel into the brush," or "Stop! Do not jump on that hobo."
But she was off the leash with us and it was great. There we were out in nature, reconnecting with our primeval selves and it was just a real pleasant experience. I was invited into the secret brotherhood of My Wife And Dog's Running Route and ran through some new trails I had never been on. We ended our runs in a big public park where we threw a tennis ball for the dog and rolled around in the grass. It was just a solid couple of days all around.
I was reflecting on all this—the enjoyment of being out there with my family—and I got to thinking: what a bunch of crazy fucking thoughts I was having.
I recently turned 32 years old. I cannot begin to explain how impossible it is for, say, 29-year-old me to comprehend those last couple paragraphs. Or any of the other 31 preceding annual versions of myself, for that matter. I am running? With my wife? And I have a dog? OK, that last part is cool, but seriously, running? Like, just by itself? What the hell is going on here?
My wife always ran, even back when she was the girl I hooked up with the other night and straight through girlfriend, fiancé and wife. I always looked at it as her thing. Like drinking and watching sports was my thing. Never in my 29-year-old wildest nightmares would I have imagined myself running with her, but there I was running just a little bit behind her and not for any life-saving (hers or mine) related reasons. I voluntarily did this.
The whole thing just kind of blew my mind.
The other thing that blew my mind was just how out of condition I was after a week of not running. Not one week before huffing and puffing (and stopping) through a three mile, 30-minute jaunt, I ran a motherfletching half-marathon. Sure, I pooped, but whatever, I still ran it all and a week later I couldn't run more than two miles without having to take a breather.
This is my constant fear. You and I both know I could have finished those three miles without stopping, but I stopped anyway. I wasn't going to die. I wasn't going to get injured. I wasn't even going to experience moderate discomfort. But it soon approached a point where I felt that it was unpleasant and I stopped. Because there was nothing at stake. I have nothing to run for except my own well-being. Which—based on the previous three decades of my life—is to say: I have nothing to run for. It appears I need to have occasional goalposts to aim for every few months and into perpetuity.
I also fell while on one of these little "fun runs" with my wife and dog. I hadn't ever been on the particular trails we were running on and the footing is a bit uneven. There's rocks, branches, hobos and other detritus back there and if you're not totally familiar with the layout, you should probably be looking down at your feet while you run. Problem is, looking down at your feet while you run is kind of hard and also dangerous because then you can get hit in the head or lose an eyeball because of a low hanging branch you're not aware of. Basically, what I'm saying is, don't bother running because we are all going to die eventually.
Anyway, I wasn't looking where I was going and ate it on the path. It was mostly a dirt path so I didn't think too much of it, I just picked myself up and kept going. Kind of badass, really, when you think about it. Its the opposite of how I was back in grade school in gym and stuff, where you would pretend to be hurt or exhausted from all the physical exertion but also continue on so all the girls thought you were tough. At least that's what I thought was happening and I imagine that's what most pro athletes think too when they are all wincing and stretching out their arms and shit after a rough foul or something. I'm on to you, Melo, you're full of shit, just like 12-year-old me. Anyway, since I am now an adult, I don't want my wife thinking I'm some kind of baby, so I got up and kept going like nothing happened.
When I got home, I realized my leg had a huge gash and almost road rash-type of redness to it and blood was running down to my socks.
If you've noticed, there have not been any songs listed because I did not listen to any music on those runs. I was out enjoying the majesty of nature with my two lady friends. I then ran one more time while I was away at a family wedding and listened to some old genius playlist I had on my phone.
(The Gym) Is Neutral Territory," Lifetime
I struggle with not wanting to give myself too much credit and not giving myself enough credit, but I'm trying to be positive here so I'm going to say the fact that I actually ran during what was essentially a five-day bender surrounding a wedding is a victory. I should have done more in terms of time, distance and days but not long ago I wasn't even thinking about doing anything, let alone feeling guilty about not doing enough. A victory, no matter how small, is still a victory. Or at least not a loss.
"Something To Forget," Texas Is The Reason
All that being said, Jesus dude, get your act together. You ran like 5 times in the span of two weeks. At the same time you drank probably sixteen bottles of wine, a shitload of Dewars and some Maker's Mark for variety. You're not even counting the beers you sprinkled in just to be holding something that wasn't water. Oh, right, and you ate. You turned running, eating and drinking into a negative-sum weight-game. Zero-sum is OK. It should be just a little positive, but at the very least, maintaining is not the worst you could do.
"Everywhere In Denver," The Promise Ring
I am in total cruise control and getting off—and staying off—the horse is just about the easiest thing in the world. It gets easier with each passing day. You fall back into all the familiar habits of not paying attention to the things that are discouraging and annoying to pay attention to and in turn replace all that aggravation with awesome stuff like food and drink. You begin living again like you have no worries.
"Our Own Way," Hot Water Music
In a lot of ways it's like being a child. You eat and drink whatever is put in front of you and you don't care, or even know, what it is, you just eat it because you are hungry and drink it because you are thirsty. The only difference is, you are not a fucking useless child dependent on someone to do everything for you. You are an adult with a car and money and adult thoughts like hmm, two bottles of wine and pizza? Sounds delicious. Monday, Wednesday and Friday dinners are set. So it's not so much that you are a useless child, it's just that you are indulging the useless child that resides inside you because that child is awesome and does not give a fuck about the real world.
"Five, Eight and Ten," Mineral
But the real world has diabetes and heart disease and all kinds of shitty things to punish our indulging the useless child inside. For this wedding, where my useless child was re-birthed, I had to get a new suit because I looked ridiculous in all my old suits. I used to wear a suit everyday, now my suits are like fossils in my closet; a wonderful relic of the past. One suit I found back there, from a long time ago, had size 48 waist pants. I am confident someone who knows what "knot" and "starboard" means could make it across the Atlantic with those pants, a stick and a canoe.
"The Frowning Of A Lifetime," Hey Mercedes
A 48 waist is why you don't indulge your useless child. It's why you do terrible things to your body like run. Because here's the most fucked up thing about life and the world: running and exercise and being healthy is terrible, and hurts and makes you want to crawl into the fetal position and not ever move, but it is good for you, while literally every single thing that is awesome and delicious is horrible for you. Don't even think about saying something like "well, I actually really like salads." Shut up, you filthy, filthy liar.
We survived the caves and predators and eventually took over the world because we were active and moved around and didn't eat shit like cheeseburgers all the time. (Important: I am definitely not advocating for the Paleo diet here. That is for crazy people. I'm just speaking to the difference in lifestyles between the modern person and the cave person and then need to actually schedule in activity.) Then when we settled in and got comfortable—blammo!—pestilence and famine. But what those puritanical salad eaters don't realize is that moderation, not deprivation is the secret.
"The Blankets Were The Stairs," Sunny Day Real Estate
If you want to be able to lay around all day, every day and also not be your own 800 pound gorilla in the room, then yes, you have to eat essentially water in leaf form. But if you want to treat yourself like an adult and enjoy life and the benefits civilization has to offer—fine wines, rich foods, catching up on The Walking Dead on Netflix for hours while enjoying those two other things, then you've got to schedule in activity time. We're no longer walking around hunting for food, or running from the food we though we were hunting but turns out was hunting us. We drive to the store and buy some shit packed with preservatives and who knows what else and then we drive home and load it up with even more crap.
"Exploding Boy," Alkaline Trio
That's a lot of crap to offset that we as a species never had to offset before. That's how you get something like "running" to become a "hobby." It's a nice way of saying that running is less likely to result in me putting a bullet in my head than is being fat. From an evolutionary standpoint, anyway. Even if you look at your inner useless child, you can see this evolution. As a kid you ran around and did kid things all the time. It wasn't until you became an adult that you evolved into this rational person who was saddled with responsibilities and rational thoughts like why run when you can walk? and then later why move when you can not move? Your inner useless child is pissed at you for this and tries to get back at you by slowly killing you.
You have to prevent this by preserving that balance between an indulgent life and a spartan one. This is something I have failed miserably at for the majority of my life and which the previous weeks have served as microcosm. And besides, maybe it's like an investment. In the long run by indulging less all the time, you may actually wind up with more time spent indulging yourself. That sounds like something your financial planner would say because you are an adult and being an adult, like running, is the worst. But it's better than being dead.
Photo Credit: Getty