I remember the exact minute when I decided to start. It was our first year in Northern Illinois and Jan took a picture of me carving the Thanksgiving turkey. When the photos came back from the lab, there I was … a fat-ass pig, picking pieces of fowl flesh off of a turkey carcass.
So I began running. Short distances at first, then farther and farther until I figured that five miles was about the right distance and the right amount of time. The weight came off … more than 60 pounds of it, and I became semi-addicted. I ran in the cold, heat, rain and snow. I even ran the morning of the day Jan was scheduled to have a Caesarian to give birth to our son. It was an afternoon affair, so I had time.
One of the odd things about running, is the fact that you come across a lot of crazies. I don’t know what it is about people who run, but there are an inordinate amount of other people who don’t like it. A majority of these people are driving cars when they show their displeasure toward you.
I first noticed the phenomena almost immediately after I started. At first, it was the occasional “finger”, then people (guys only) would swerve their cars at you while grinning manically. And then it escalated to thrown objects from cars … coins, beer cans (full and empty), vegetables, lit cigarettes, rocks and firecrackers. Some runners talk about getting into a “zone” when they run, but I was never able to do that because I was always on the lookout for deadly projectiles.
The strangest incident happened to me one Saturday in January. I was running around our still developing neighborhood. I passed a house under construction and noticed that a man wrapped in full winter gear was working on the roof. As I passed he yelled at me “FUCK YOU FAGGOT!” I stopped and looked back up at him, which prompted him to continue with a longer soliloquy, which included something about real men work on the weekends and don’t prance around like pussies. This sort of flummoxed me, so in my best 3rd grade comeback, I told him that at least I was smart enough not to be perched up on a roof, freezing my ass off and squawking like a parrot. Oh, and I might have told him to go fuck himself.
The next thing I knew, he was scrambling to the edge of the roof and was taking the ladder down five rungs at a time. I’ve only been faced with the “fight or flee” thing a couple of times in my life, but when you have a full bearded nut clad in classic Carhartt winter wear and wielding a claw hammer bearing down on you, I choose flee every time.
Besides, being a seasoned runner, I knew I could lose him. And after a few steps, he seemed to realize the same thing, so he headed for his truck. By the time he had fumbled around getting the thing started, I had finally comprehended the fact that this clown might actually be trying to hurt me, so I jumped a couple of fences and cut through a couple of yards; making it through the front door of my house in time to see the guy roaring around the neighborhood, looking for me.
After a few minutes of this, I thought it might be a good idea to call the police. They came, took a statement and went up to the house under construction, looking for Mr. Carhartt. Of course, he had vanished, and I never heard anything else about it.
Soon after, I decided it was time to stop running. It was probably the best thing for my aging body too, since after years of pounding the pavement, I’m left with gamey knees and a network of broken capillaries in both ankles.
Nowadays, I prefer walking. Jan can join me when she wants to; and it seems much more sedate and dignified.
And no one has tried to kill me. Not even once.