Monday, June 25, 2018
V 8 N. 40 Another Literary Fling on Running by Thomas E. Coyne
HOW TO SURVIVE AND HAVE FUN
. . . . Though Running
Unlike many recent devotees of the sport I do not find it necessary to justify myself. I run because I like to and I feel like it. With this attitude I get all of the benefits without any of the soul-searching. It’s a lot like being a drunk rather than an alcoholic. I don’t have to go to all the meetings. A less visible advantage is that it frees the mind while running. The philosopher types have to listen to their Karma, commune with nature, think deep thoughts. I can screw around.
The attitude is best fulfilled when running with others. Usually I run with people who are as good or better than I am as a runner. Consequently, I have to be alert to ways I can negate their superior skills or get an edge on the equal ability lads. One way, with a new running companion, is to neglect to mention we’re supposed to turn at the next corner until I already have and he is past the intersection. The constant playing “catch-up” can really break one’s rhythm. This, you understand, is good for only once around that course. To really make it work one needs many different loops.
Another technique is to engage companions in spirited conversation in which they end up doing the conversing, and I do all the breathing. There is, however, a danger in this technique. Given the right topic the adrenaline really starts to flow and the speaker moves right into race pace.
Running with needle artists is fun. A group with two or three wise guys in it is always lively. They alternately gang up on someone in the pack and then shift to cutting up each other. The constant back and forth skewering keeps you alert and the miles just flee by.
However, for long range fun and pleasure I’ve found an involved, practical joke is the best. Fitting the pieces of a scam together during workouts over weeks, and even months, puts variety and spice into what otherwise might be another humdrum conversation about the respective merits of running shoes. I do mean weeks and months, by the way. The most involved hoax a couple of us put together began with an innocent remark made during the tail end of an August noonday workout and didn’t end until we played a tape recording for the still unsuspecting victim the following June and confessed all (almost all, that is). The hoax involved, by the time we were through, a naked lady, medical ethics, the Mafia (with appropriate references to runners’ broken legs), a few well timed and taped telephone inquiries and two brands of coffee.
During various workouts, and afterward in the locker room, we set the several stages of the charade carefully in place. A key point was not returning to the subject during each and every workout but, instead, casually slipping in a point or two, to keep up the momentum of the joke, during runs sometimes weeks apart. Non-running acquaintances added some of the needed pieces in between. Not all practical jokes require such elaborate details to achieve their objectives, but once the imagination starts working only the limits of gullibility and mercy can restrain it.
What it all comes down to, I believe, is the companionship; the mutual encouragement of runners in what otherwise might indeed be loneliness. In all honesty, however, it is not the best way to become a top-flight racer. The tendency of packs to run to accommodate the least gifted makes for good fellowship, but not champions. There is a point, therefore, when two or three of the most ambitious may go their separate ways for a period of time to test and stretch and drive themselves to still another plateau of fitness in preparation for a race or series of races. This is as it should be, for in the ebb and flow of the seasons the pack will reform, the camaraderie will resume and friends of all abilities will renew themselves in the fellowship of the run. Wits will sharpen and jokes will be told and retold. We will take ourselves a bit less seriously and….the fun begins.
Thomas E. Coyne
February 14, 1983
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