Runner In Tights

Written on Apr 22nd, 2011 by , Category Marlene Farrell Blog

Recently the Running Mama astutely recognized that the contents of a certain well-circulated running magazine could sometimes feel like repackaging of the same information (I can’t count the number of times dark chocolate and quinoa have been mentioned in the nutrition tips, and the current magazine has a multi-page spread on sock recommendations – just what I’ve been waiting for!).  With that said, there are always several articles I enjoy reading, including the witty columns written by Peter Sagal.  Sagal is also the renowned host of NPR’s show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

The theme of Sagal’s newest installment can be summed up with his quote that in today’s world, “running is like a silly superpower: most people can’t do it, but most people don’t need to.”  Obviously enough of an enthusiastic runner to write for a running magazine, Sagal still admonishes us to not take ourselves too seriously and admit that “running is essentially useless.”

I confess that this is something I struggle with.  When my weekend rolls around, a long run is ranked way up on the list, sometimes requiring a reshuffle of other priorities, like soccer games, biking with the kids, cleaning the garage.  After a long run or speed workout I cling to my sense of accomplishment, though that “feat” might have just compromised my ability to wrestle with my kids or make a nice dinner because my now accomplished body just wants to lay on the couch!  Even while I’m running I sometimes can’t avoid the guilty thoughts of projects, pushed to the backs of drawers or left to collect dust on a shelf, because my day never gets any longer and runs, meals and sleep are non-negotiables.  Running can feel like my “destiny,” making me the equivalent of the reluctant hero who must burden herself with saving the day.

Sagal mentions other hobbies like cooking and knitting are more “useful.”  But certainly there are many other hobbies that are at least as ridiculous as running, such as a few listed on cigar smoking, gambling, metal detecting, matchstick modeling, pyrotechnics, shark fishing.  And we can all agree that running is generally safer and healthier than most fringe hobbies.

I think it is great to have a superhero hobby.  I don’t have to exaggerate the meaning of each run to believe that there’s still real meaning there.  Beyond the fitness benefits and the mental clarity after time dedicated to the rhythm of each footfall, there’s the wonderfully unique opportunity to shed multitasking and “just do it” as the ads used to say.  And that sense of membership in the Hall of Justice, no matter how phony it is, gives me the courage to take risks and believe in myself.

And when I want to dream out loud, so to speak, I pull on my compression tights, flashy racing flats and a shirt emblazoned with Seattle Running Club and run by my son’s friends’ house, where I’m sure to be cheered vigorously by some of my favorite fans (n.b. – three kids under the age of six).  If you ever catch me wearing my windbreaker tied around my neck, please tell me I’ve gone too far.

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