It all starts with a 3-legged dog.
As a way to torture me during childhood I was forced to join my dad on 5 mile runs through the woods. I always dreaded these days because I hated running. Frankly, I never understood the point of suffering for an hour. I used to wonder who would be crazy enough to actually enjoy exercise.
One day things got interesting before a run. Right before we began our traditional father-son bonding torture session, my dad told me to watch out for “the 3-legged dog.” Now he’s the kind of guy who makes up stories. So naturally I didn’t believe him for a second. That is until we pass a house and an enormous 3-legged dog comes sprinting after us.
In all likelihood, the dog was probably the size of a Chihuahua. However I remember it being larger than a St. Bernard with the disposition of Cujo. The funny thing was this 3-legged dog could really move. It would take a few steps and smack its head on the ground. But it wouldn’t give up.
It just coming after us with that eerie cadence…step, step, step, smack…step, step, step, smack.
What’s the point to this story?
This is the first significant memory I have of my love/hate relationship with running. I eventually learned to enjoy this activity. But I’ve also had experienced a number of bizarre and annoying things during a run that make me wonder why I continue to do it. Which brings us to…
…My 20th Anniversary of Running
I love milestones. In the last week I realized I’ve now hit my 20th year of being a “runner.” Way back in 1990 I was hoodwinked into joining the high school cross country team. Since then, I’ve had a number of amazing experiences that came from running. But we’re not going to talk about them today. In fact, I’d like to give 20 things that I hate about running:
#1- No World Cup Trophy: I played soccer (football) every year during my childhood. Naturally I thought this would continue in high school. However my parents thought I would be good at running, so they “persuaded” me to join the cross-country team. After signing up, I was told by the coach that you couldn’t be on both the soccer and the cross-country team. This ended a soccer career which would have culminated in hoisting the World Cup Trophy over my head. Oh well.
#2- “Run Forrest, Run”: Okay, I get it…I’m jogging. Just like Forrest Gump did in the movie. You screaming “Run Forrest Run” outside of the window isn’t that original. The movie came out sixteen years ago. Get over it!
#3- Demon Daschunds: I lived in Mississippi for two years. Between the heat and lack space on the roads, it’s one of my least favorite places for jogging. And it got worse this past spring when I visited my old friends and decided to go for a run. It was at this time when I encountered a pack of dogs I nicknamed “The Demon Dachshunds.”
#4- French Farm Dogs: Another dog story. This past June I went for a run in the French countryside. It was a pleasant experience until I got chased down by a pair of farm dogs the size of Wookies. Fortunately I came out with only a tiny scratch on my leg. (See to the right)
#5- Attacked by Deer: Dogs aren’t the only creatures that like to attack me. During a college cross country race I had a giant buck run right at me than leap away at the last second. I know this sounds tame but having a large deer almost run you over can be pretty freaking scary.
#6-Finishing 2nd Place: Winning a footrace is a great feeling. Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced it very often. Usually I’m the guy behind ‘the guy.’ In 2001 alone, I finished second place in FOURTEEN different races, in FOUR different states, over SEVEN different distances…all the way from a 5K to a Marathon. Pretty frustrating if you ask me.
#7- Thrown Objects: Having someone yell, “Run, Forrest Run” is actually better than getting objects thrown at me. I’ve had glass bottles, rocks, even a piece of pizza tossed in my direction during a run. I don’t know why a guy running gets such an angry response.
#8- Bangor, Maine: When I was in high school, I went for a run in the woods in Bangor, Maine which is the hometown of horror author Stephen King. So when I got completely lost in the woods at night, I kinda freaked out. For over an hour I imagined that “It,” “The Tommyknockers,” and “Cujo” were all coming to get me. So what did I do? I decided to swim across a 200 yard swamp when I saw the city skyline on the other side.
#9- Newark Sprinters– One of my pet peeves is when a car makes a right-hand turn and doesn’t bother to look for pedestrians. My normal reaction is to slam my fist on the hood of the car to get the driver’s attention. This worked perfectly until I did it to a guy who got out of his car and chased me three blocks down the streets of Newark, New Jersey. Needless to say I don’t do this anymore.
#10- Sadistic Coaches– While we’re on the topic of Newark, my college coach would often drop us off in the worst part of Newark and then tell us to run back to school. Talk about motivation!
#11- Being Skinny– It’s hard to be a good distance runner and not look emaciated. If you take a look at the picture to the left, you’ll probably agree that I needed to eat a little more back then.
#12- Tripping– Running makes you fatigued. When you’re fatigued you sometimes trip and fall. Every 4 months or so, I find a way to have a spectacular wipe-out. My personal favorite is when I turned my head to check out a girl and fell flat on my face. She wasn’t impressed.
#13- Sweating– I know it’s disgusting, but I have really overactive sweat-glands. If I’m running on a treadmill at the gym you better not get on the one next to me…it won’t be pretty.
#14- Guys in Spandex Shorts- They just bother me, especially when one beats me.
#15- Marathons– What kind of sadist would create a running event that’s 26 miles long? And what type of masochist would want to participate in one? At the end of every marathon I’ve always had a few minutes where I seriously question my sanity.
#16- The Green Mountain Marathon– While we’re talking about marathons, there’s one still haunts my dreams… The Green Mountain Marathon. Yes, it’s a very scenic run through Vermont fall foliage. The downside is the designers of the course decided to put a mile long hill at the 24th mile. This was the longest seven minutes of my life.
#17- Hills- Running up hills just sucks.
#18- Dutch Cyclists– This past week I visited Amsterdam for the second time. Now if you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you know it’s populated by really tall people. And these tall people ride really tall bikes. Somewhere along the line, they decided that it’s fun to play the game of “run over jogging tourists.” Now I get shivers whenever I hear tinkling bike bells.
#19-Extreme Weather- I’ve run through 100 degree and -10 degree weather. The same goes for hailstorms, snowy days and even a few nor’easters. I’ve even come back with my face completely frozen over from an extremely icy day. Once I got an awesome case of sunstroke. While it’s fun to reenact a Nike commercial about “just doing it,” sometimes it’s not fun running through extreme weather conditions.
#20- Bruce Springsteen– Some people have wonderful memories of hearing Bruce Springsteen’s music for the first time. I always think of the time he almost hit me with his car.
It was an icy, dreary afternoon during my run. I was going down a long-hill when a car barreled out of a driveway and didn’t bother to look to the right (See #9). The guy didn’t notice me until the last minute and braked hard, barely stopping in time. I slammed my fist on the car’s hood and gave “the finger” to the driver. He gave one back. It wasn’t until five steps later that I realized I just the finger to Bruce Springsteen. (He lives in my hometown.)
20 More Years of Running?
I know this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. In all seriousness I really enjoy running. In fact, some of the best memories from my trip through Europe come from the runs I’ve completed in different countries.
So while I’ve had some *interesting* experiences during a run, I still look forward to another 20 years. Hopefully though…I’ll have less eventful memories.Take Action. Get Results.