Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 31 Jul 2003 07:57:10 -0400

Little Irritants


(rerun from August 1997 RW)

I have to laugh that the Los Angeles Times asked me, of all people, to critique the movie "Prefontaine." I'm no critic. I prefer to look for the good instead of reporting the bad.

But I took on the L.A. Times assignment and had the article bounce back to me twice for rewrites because it wasn't tough enough. A few runner-readers criticized me for being too tough on the movie. One reader said, "This isn't like you."

No, it's not. I don't go out of my way to run down the sport and its practitioners, and more often err in the opposite direction by singing their praises too loudly. I write columns that leave you thinking I must like everyone who runs and everything about running.

Not quite. In the interests of realism and balance, I give you the following list of little irritants in the life of this runner. But the Pollyanna in me can't help adding that enduring these few negatives adds to the appreciation of the many positives.

What I don't like about running:

The first mile of most runs, before you find a rhythm... Running in darkness when each foot plant is an act of faith... Times unreadable in the dark without holding the watch six inches from your face... Looking down in midrun and seeing the watch still reading "0:00"... Looking down after a time trial to find the watch still running... People who ask for the time of day when you're in the stopwatch mode.

Ending a run early and walking back to the start, even when injury-control demands it... Courses that start downhill and beat up a cold body... Courses that finish uphill and beat down an already tired body... Courses that pass the eventual finish line before you're finished.

Waiting for stoplights to change... Waiting for traffic to pass before you cross a street... Jumping on and off curbs... Oncoming drivers who won't dim their lights for a mere pedestrian... Drivers who don't signal their turns for you, coast through stop signs, won't yield an inch of their lane on an otherwise empty road, or drive in the bike lane... Bikers startling you as they silently pass from behind... Unseen dogs that first bark when you're three feet away.

A pebble in the shoe that feels like a boulder... A rock stuck in the shoe tread and scraping along the road... Stepping on gum or dog poop on the sidewalk... Stinky shoes from running without socks... Slipping into clammy shoes that haven't dried out from the last run or the last wash... Shoes that disappear from the market as soon as they become favorites.

Running in long pants that seem to restrict leg motion even if they don't... Cold hands and ears that make you feel feel cold all over... Finishing into a headwind... Sudden rain showers that catch you underdressed... Invisible patches of ice on the streets that lurk to tackle you.

Being seen walking, even if you believe in the value of walking breaks... Getting caught making a pit stop, even when you tried to be discreet... Spit and snot that end up on your chin, cheek or chest... Sloshing of food or water in the belly... Swallowing a bug or catching one in the eye.

Walkers who hog the inside lane of the track while you're running there for time... The looks of business-suited travelers when you walk into a hotel elevator in few clothes and a full sweat... Greeting another runner and not getting so much as eye contact in return... Tailgating runners who attach themselves to your pace when you want to run alone... Watching healthy runners race when you're unwell and can't run.

UPDATE. One of these irritants rubbed at me again recently. This was "Shoes that disappear from the market as soon as they become favorites."

Specifically, the Nike Pegasus 2000. It may be the best shoe I've ever worn -- light, cushy, flexible. It allowed a big jump in my amount of running the past two years.

Now it's replaced by a model whose name is only one digit removed -- the Pegasus 2002. But that's a much different shoe -- hard, stiff and clunky.

Luckily I went online and Googled in the old name. Up popped several sources of the 2000. Now I'm resupplied, but for how long?


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