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Jogging Mania

This town is a runner’s rapture: Ribbons of scenery-skirted sidewalks, a surplus of sunshine and the shotgun start of an organized race being fired nearly every time you lace up your ASICS.

Yes, folks here like to huff and lope over endless miles of hills and plains. Glistening provocatively in tiny nylon shorts, they enjoy opening up the throttle on their miraculous, machine-like bodies and blissing out to the meditative rhythms of their feet and heart thumping in tandem, their breath chugging staccato, allegrissimo…

All of which begs the question, I think:

What is wrong with you people?

Long have I applauded and issued wow-good-for-yous when friends — in increasing numbers — tell me they’ve taken up running and are training for marathons and triathlons. It’s good to get healthy, after all. To have hobbies. To set goals.

But no more. It’s starting to feel like a plot. A conspiracy to overthrow good sense, to punish ourselves and to make us all have those weird bulbous calfs. And I just won’t be a party to that.

Let me admit right off the bat that there is nothing about running that appeals to me. I won’t even break into a trot unless someone crazy is chasing me.

From where I sit (which I do often), the sport looks like this: monotony + pounding + ugly shoes. And no amount of endorphins or sanctioned carb-loading can balance that grim equation. So on the runners’ sanity continuum, I may be unable to accurately gauge the precise location of the line between “healthy” and “stark, raving deranged.”

But I did a little research. Do you know what kinds of products are marketed to runners? Knee braces and night splints. Heart monitors and pepper spray. Clip-on strobes and blister shields. There’s even something called Unisex Body Glide Anti-Friction. Is this a fitness routine, folks, or an (OUCH!) torture scene from Casino Royale?

To be fair, I have no empirical evidence that training for a marathon is painful. Like the way I’m not sure if sticking one’s tongue in an electrical outlet is painful, but I’m unlikely to try it.

I know, I know. Our bodies are amazing. Powerful. Resilient. It’s wonderful! But some of us can appreciate that fact without pushing them to their breaking point. Some of us are plenty proud when we are able to finish our dinner after ordering our Thai food “medium” spicy instead of our usual “mild.” Talk about a rush! Plus you get that same rosy runners’ glow on your cheeks without the inevitable knee surgery.

I don’t begrudge my buddies who take joy in the occasional jog. It must be nice to get exercise anytime you want — no doubles partner, gym membership or Pilates ring required.

It’s the harder-farther-faster folks whose motives I question. I have several friends who have completed the Ironman. That means they willingly — nay, eagerly — swam two and a half miles (Milpas Street isn’t that long), biked 112 miles (Santa Barbara County isn’t that long) and then, what the heck, ran a marathon when they were done.

Look, I’m no expert. I can’t say for sure that athletes who enter the Ironman are clinically insane. But I can say this: If those people were chasing me, I would run.

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