This morning, I had my first run.

Running has long been one of those activities I have avoided and eschewed, a rather silly and potentially injurious form of exercise that takes the individual across the landscape at far too slow a pace to be interesting. Much more respectable is the fleetness of the bicycle, which allows for the exploration of a larger part of the local geography. I do love the cycling. I have a nice, thirty-five-mile route I cover every Sunday, and I am looking forward to participating in this year’s Big Dam Bridge 100 cycling tour.

But I am trying to take up running, because I have friends who are doing this thing for a good cause, and maybe if enough of us sign up for the Little Rock Marathon, we can raise some money and/or awareness for cancer research, and that’s a good thing, right? Besides, I am usually up for the odd challenge. I can’t visit a local ethnic grocery without purchasing some imported canned beverage. I have consumed a depressing variety of something called “grass jelly drink” and an even more disgusting can of something labeled “Bird’s Nest Drink—With Fungus.” Running has to be healthier that that shit.

And easy enough, surely! I mean, I am training for a century, for 100 miles, and on my mountain bike, too, so running a quarter of that—no problem, right?

As I discovered this morning, panting and sweating at the quarter-mile mark, running is a different set of skills entirely. It was a distressing discovery, but fortunately, the morning was still dark enough there was no one out to see my struggling form trying to heave itself uphill. And when I got home, I had soreness in my legs that I had never felt before. It’s been a while since I’ve been that sore. And it astonished me that I can put in thirty-five miles on the bike and come home just fine, but these two miles I ran/walked around the neighborhood rather beat me down. I’m starting all over again, using a different set of muscles, just another novice. Nowhere to go but up, I hope.

(And I’m going to pull a moral out of this, just because. We rather tend, here in America, to believe that one particular set of skills lends itself to an infinite variety of applications. Oh, this guy made a name for himself in business? Then surely he can be chancellor of this university, chairman of this board, president of this country. We like to subsume unrelated activities under the rubric of “leadership” while ignoring the different skill and strength sets needed for disparate circumstances. We like to believe that things are uncomplicated and non-specialized.)

On a related note, equipment is important. The sum total of my footwear before this past weekend was: one pair of steel-toed Redwing dress shoes (sufficiently scuffed and worn), one pair of steel-toed Corcoran canvas boots, one pair of Keen sandals, and the clip shoes for my bike. Historically, I have tended to buy one pair of boots that could straddle the work-casual line and wear them to bits and then, only when they are absolutely falling apart, buy another pair of the same. The sandals were an acknowledgement that boots weren’t the right footwear for canoeing. But when I informed the wife last week that I had some vague intentions about running a marathon, she made me go out and buy an actual pair of running shoes. And yes, these things, despite their bright pink color, are wonderful, leaving me without the anticipated foot soreness.

I have written much on this site about the need for us all to take the world around us seriously. And part of taking the world seriously is listening to those people with more expertise, with greater engagement and experience in certain areas. We take seriously the world when we take them seriously.

But all this exercise is interesting, though. I feel like I am experiencing puberty all over again, watching my body changing in interesting ways. And even if I don’t make the marathon, I have already learned a lot.

But I will do the marathon. Because me struggling and panting and forcing myself to crawl down the road and across the line no matter how miserable I feel will be a much better story than me staying at home that day.


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