what I talk about when I don’t talk about running

In a recent post I wrote about how I was really bad at something. You know the post, the one where I just went on and on about my ineptitude at some key facet of everyday life? The one where I continually mocked my own inability to deal with something relatively simple and mundane?

Yeah, that one.

Okay, maybe I should be more specific? I am referring to one specific recent post. (I’ve been doing this thing for barely a month. They’re all recent.) The most recent one, that is, in which I presented myself as a clumsy doofus profoundly bereft of athletic skill. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not blowing it all that much out of proportion: the exaggeration is, like my build, slight. I really am a big sports dummy. But to imply that I have never excelled in any athletic endeavor… well, that may not be completely accurate. Because believe it or not, in a way that only S. Price Horn could pull off, I actually got pretty good at something athletic until I very suddenly got really bad at it.


I know, right? It makes no sense. I have always had short, stubby legs and no musculature to speak of. For a little chunk of my life I was a little chunk of a man: I had that “skinny-fat” thing going where I had a ridiculous tub-gut flopping over my belt but my wrists were so thin I couldn’t wear a watch. So how did that guy turn into, of all things, a runner?

What happened was this: I got old. I crashed into 40 hard, and that artificial milestone forced me to evaluate all that I had accomplished in my life, and brother, I came up way short. (I mean, don’t get me wrong… the wife and I have produced a couple of fantastic children, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: functional gonads are not an accomplishment.) And so, in a moment of what can only be described as spiteful insanity, I registered for the Chicago Marathon, despite never having run farther than five miles. Wait, farther or further? I can never remember. Let’s just say I had never run distanter than five miles.

This was a stupid decision, is what I’m saying. But you know, it actually worked out okay. I ran the marathon, more or less successfully, in that I finished it but did so after a slow, disappointing slog. All that running, though, had thrown some kind of switch in my noggin, and suddenly all I could think about was running more. I wanted to do another half-marathon! I wanted to do another marathon! I wanted to run run run RUN RUN!

And for the longest time, sweet fancy MOSES I would not shut up about it. On the regulars I wrote long, tiresome blog posts detailing my training regimen. If you were my Facebook friend at that time, you were absolutely inundated with posts about running. I ran today! Look how fast I ran today! Look how far I ran today! Hey, did I mention that I ran today?!


It was just never-ending. All running, all the time. I know that at the Final Judgment I will have a lot to answer for–all those hobos that went missing under mysterious circumstances in the late 70s, for one (but perhaps I’ve said too much). But chief among those things I regret is all that incessant social media crowing about my running accomplishments, because at the height of my revelry, at the peak of my running performance, when I was in the best shape of my life, mere weeks before I was going to run my second marathon and show the whole world–REALLY SHOW ‘EM–I hurt my knee and had to stop running.

2195464As to what exactly happened to cause the injury, I may never completely know. I do know this: I had just finished Haruki Murakami’s running memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I went to a local running establishment for advice on shoes (where I bragged, ironically enough, about how I had never had any knee issues… oh, hubris, what crazy hijinx will you get up to next!). I got some bad advice from the staff at that establishment. I will not directly reveal the name of that establishment, but I’ll tell you this: I mentally flip it off every time I drive past it, and if you are into the running, well, store this advice up in your mind: be very careful who you listen to. Anyway, I acted on that bad advice, and within a day, every step I took while running felt like my worst enemy was jabbing me in the knee with an ice pick (ugh, that guy, amirite). And that pain continued… for a year-and-a-half.

Now, spoiler alert, I got better. It was a long and wearisome and expensive journey, and was I difficult to live with at the time (even more so than now!), but I did run again. Still running today, knock on wood. But right in the middle of it, I found myself completely shut off from something I loved, something that spoke to me and gave me focus and joy. All of a sudden I was out of the game. I couldn’t run. This was the one thing I could do pretty well, and it was gone. At the time, I sincerely thought I would never run again. Ever. It was devastating. Humiliating.

And that was when I started noticing everyone else’s Facebook posts about running. They ran today! Look how far they ran today! Etc. And those posts… they cut me. They hurt. No one was doing it to intentionally spite me (that I know of! except for maybe that one guy… ugh, that guy), but I just despised seeing these folks enjoying something that was forbidden to me. Look at those running chumps! They’re rubbing my face in it, just to make me feel small! Well, smaller.

And then it hit me… I wonder if my running posts had that effect on anybody else? How much of my social media running jibber-jabber was me just sharing my interests, and how much was a sick kind of arrogance? How much of it was me rubbing their faces in it? Begging people to look at me, I’m an athlete! I’m good at something, probably better than you! I’d like to think I was above all that, but come on, you know me. I’m capable of pettiness and pride. Pretty good at them, actually, if you ask my family.

So what do talk about when I talk about running? I don’t. Not anymore. I know how it can come across as braggadocio, and that’s not me. If anything, it’s the opposite of me! I could probably stand to talk about running more, instead of all the constant self-hatin’! But self-hatin’ is my thing, people. It’s my thing. And I like to talk about my thing on the Internet. (That… came out weird.)

Running… yeah, running is also my thing. But I don’t talk about running. I run.

So this is my promise to you: I will never post about running again. Unless I do something running-related that is either really amazing (“I just won the Iron Man!”–unlikely) or really horrible (“I falled down and broked my bottom-bone”–virtually guaranteed). Or unless it comes up in conversation. Or someone asks me about it. Or I just want to. Or my sworn enemy breaks his ankle and can’t run anymore and I just want to rub his stupid face in it. Come on, don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same in my place. That guy… ugh.