Saturday, March 28, 2009

Scenes from a Runner's Mental Theater

I took a nice long run in the heavy rain today and encountered a couple of situations that I'm tempted to call unique to the ebbs and flows, triumphs and tragedies, absurdities and cosmic absurdities, of running:

  • As I was running down the shoulder of a busy street (happily only a small portion of the run), the driver of a large SUV deliberately swerved to splash water on me. I was delighted! After all, what's the good of running in the rain if you're not going to get thoroughly muddied and soaked? And yet it occurred to me that the SUV driver was almost certainly acting out of malice, based on the non-runner's curious inversion of reality in which staying clean and dry is somehow preferable to getting dirty and drenched. So while I wanted to follow my impulse to throw an enthusiastic "thumbs-up!" toward the SUV, I suspected the SUV driver would interpret the gesture as a "fuck you!" -- identifying the bared digit can be difficult through a rear-view mirror, let alone in the pouring rain. It's not that I'm totally against giving that form of salute to drivers, whether malicious or not, whether piloting SUVs or not, whether deserving of it or not, but I didn't want to reinforce the SUV driver's impression that splashing runners counts as malice. He/she might stop doing it, and I don't want to be responsible for that.
  • Toward the end of the run, I decided to do some fartleks at a track attached to a nearby junior high school. There was only one other person present, a 50-something woman with her dog, and as I approached them -- they were walking while I was running, so it didn't take long -- she looked at me with all the horror of a woman facing the realization of her darkest visions of abduction, sexual slavery, murder, impalement, who knows. Granted, it's a cruel world, but this was 11ish in the morning, in the light of day, and at the risk of self-congratulation, I believe I was convincingly portraying the part of someone out for a run (i.e., wearing running clothes, engaged in the act of running) and not playing a part I would consider rapist-ish in any way. Strangest of all, she reacted with the same shock the second and third times I passed her on the track. Again, it's a vicious world featuring more than enough despicable predators, but sweet Jebus H. Rove! Sometimes a guy running at the track in broad (if cloudy) daylight is just a guy running at the track.
Ah, the mental dramas that come with running.

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