"Most runners keep a formal journal in which to record their running experiences. Some runners keep record of their diet, weight, how they felt, and so forth. Keep whatever kind of journal you like but do attempt one, and from time to time record your resting heart rate".
"The Complete Book of Running"
November 6 - Distance: None.
What makes me want to run? What mad melange of hubris and masochism can explain this urge to tax my body and soul to the utmost, chasing nothing, fleeing nothing, running for neither money nor glory nor to catch a bus?
I am running for my life inspired by the Adida Indians of Central America. These hardy primitives are truly the aristocrats of distance running and an adult Adida can cover 100 miles nonstop at a pace that would fell an Olympic miler. And among the Adidas, heart disease is virtually unknown. Diabetes, emphysema, stroke - all are unheard of. In fact, the Adidas have no medical knowledge whatsoever. They are completely illiterate and believe that the body is an animal they ride around in.
Easing gently into my new incarnation as a running machine (fleet, sleek, instinctive, fit beyond belief), I followed the athlete's golden maxim: "Train, don't strain". For this afternoon's workout, I wore my running shoes around the apartment for half an hour, gradually tightening my terrycloth headband. Excruciating agony.
Resting heart rate: 249 (Do you count each blub or do blub-blub blubedyblub count as one?)
Thought: "Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger", says Nietzsche, the dead philosopher.
November 9 - Distance: None
The most important single item of equipment a runner buys is his T-shirt, and the most important question to consider in selecting one is: how will it read if I succumb to a massive coronary in mid-jog and am found sprawled unconscious on the track by a bunch of snooty horseback riders? Today I faced the long, lonely, agonizing test of T-shirt shopping emerging from the fiery caldron of indecision with a new definition of who and what I am.
"The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Da Feet" struck me as overly literary and too long. "Kiss Me, I'm a Jogger" and "Beep! Beep!" were obviously declasse. I was drawn to one with "Here Comes (Your Name)" on the front and "There Goes (Your Name)" on the back but was concerned about the potentially paralyzing effect of getting such a garment on backward or, worse, inside out. Ultimately, I settled for "In Case Of Emergency, Call..." and Dr. Frankel's phone number.
Resting heart rate: 6 (Gloves)
Thought: Man is by nature a running animal. The rhythm of the run is etched in the very DNA of every human cell. The earliest known literature attests to this fundamental truth: "Run, Dick, run! See Spot run!"
November 17 - Distance: None
A runner must train his mind as well as his body. We who would aspire to the pinnacles of athletic excellence must be able to endure pain, monotony, numbing repetition, disappointment and despair.
I began my mental workout listening to a Stiller and Meara comedy album. I followed this with a few brisk spins of Mungo Jerry singing "In the Summertime", and finally honed my mental stamina on a world-class runner's regimen of Peter Bogdanovich's grueling "At Long Last Love".
Resting heart rate: 346
December 9 - Distance: None
A brisk late-autumn day. Warm-up exercises at the Reservoir: flexing, bending, stretching, pilling, pitting muscle against muscle in a tense ballet of anticipation, I tuned my inner spiritual ear to the subtle rhythms of my body. It responded with a deepened breathing, quickened pulse, a hint of perspiration. My body was turning on. It wanted to get together for lunch next Thursday. I accepted.
An American passed while I was getting in touch with my body. A cigarette dangled from his paunchy American lips. He called me a name. I compared him unfavorably with the Adida Indians, whose feet he was not worthy to sniff. He called a cop.
Americans have gone soft. They are a nation of spectators - overfed, underexercised, impolite. I despise the American lifestyle (deathstyle!).
Resting heart rate: 419
Thought: I am a foot soldier in the war of slobbery.
December 15 - Distance: 100 yards
Today set foot on the track for the first time, renewing the ancient contract of sinew, sweat and hard sweet earth. It was a contract harking back to the ancient Greeks, to semimythical Phidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens bearing news of the invention of the goat.
Ran 90 yards before being passed by a one-legged guy and a woman on crutches.
Resting heart rate: 525 (Sound in ears)
Thought: Unlike other athletes, we supplicants at the temple of the fleet Hermes do not compete against one another. For us the battle is against the clock, the elements and ourselves. I can beat a Timex and thorium. As for the race against myself, I may not win, but I figure I am guaranteed at least a tie.
December 28 - Distance: 300 yards
Godlike I strode, experiencing myself for the first time as what Abraham Maslow, middle-distance psychologist, has called "the spontaneous, coordinated efficient organism functioning with a great flow of power that is so peculiarly effortless that it becomes like play - masterful, virtuosolike".
This was the fabled "runner's high", that spiritual plateau that is the true destination of any run whatever mundane geographical terrain it may happen to traverse. Eagerly I jettisoned the weighty cargo of my day-to-day precautions (are Danskins for dancing, not for dancing, for not dancing, what?). My mind became all suffused and dazzling thoughts of unutterable clarity. How much I knew, and with how little effort! It occurred to me that all men are created equal. Women too! Energy, I somehow sensed, is equal to the product of mass times the speed of light squared. Snatches of Shakespeare flitted through my consciousness, their multihued poetic radiance revealed to me for the first time: "Exeunt!", "But soft!", "Alarums within!"
Resting heart rate: 819 (Thumb on neck)
Thought: Have a nice day!
December 29 - Distance: 440 yards
A quarter of a mile nonstop! I hit the Wall of Pain! Yes, I reached the very limits of human endurance. A searing agony ripped my lungs with every labored breath. All over my body taut tendons shrieked their message of anguish along white-hot neural cords like thousands of Jewish mothers hearing that my muscles were marrying thousands of shiksas. For the life of me, I couldn't recall why I had started this running. Or where. Or when. Every time I tried to put together a coherent thought, all I got was Mungo Jerry and some hooey about DNA.
Physiologically, the Wall of Pain heralded the depletion of stored glycogen in my muscles. With its carbohydrate supply at zero, my body had either to shut down or switch to protein fuel. At 300 yards, I was burning a tuna sandwich I digested last month. At 400, I began metabolizing my underpants.
Resting heart rate: 2721.
Final thought: The body is a machine. A machine with a soul, but a machine nonetheless. Treat the body with respect and, like any finely engineered machine, it will respond with power, precision and dependability. Treat it with disrespect and, like any machine, it will fall down in the bushes and throw up.
Run The Planet thanks the Prairie Inn Harriers website (http://pih.bc.ca/) for the permission to reprint the article "Diary of a Mad Jogger" by JoEllen Trilling, from "Playboy Magazine", 1980. Illustration copyright © 2003 by Run The Planet.