The Fantasy of Discipline
There was a period in my life when it seemed that everyone I knew was getting married. This period was followed shortly by the time when everyone was having a baby. After those two epochs came a long span of divorces. All of these periods were predictable enough. Today, I’m at a point that was harder to see coming: Everyone I know seems to have taken up running.
This was a somewhat unexpected development given the company I’ve kept for much of my life. I’m the person who, after a week of tryout matches for the junior varsity tennis team, was ranked only marginally higher than the young woman who had broken her arm the week prior and hadn’t bothered to either show up or remove her name from the roster. I didn’t achieve better results with any other sports, so I cultivated different hobbies — books, music, film — and hung around with folks who, like me, didn’t mind a largely seated approach to life.
I continued roughly in this vein, surrounding with (what I assumed were) like-minded individuals, until I woke up in my late thirties and found that every other unathletic person I knew was now training for a fun run, a triathlon, or something equally dire.
It would be one thing if these friends were all slouching along unappealingly in old corporate T-shirts, sweating through the seats of their shorts and making their efforts look unappealing. The problem is that they’re revealing themselves to be marathoners. These aren’t people who heave themselves down the block a few times to get their heart rates up long enough to feel justified in calling the activity a “workout.” These are folks who willingly undertake two dozen miles of misery, knowing full well that the activity itself was named for the city where some poor bastard dropped dead after doing the same.
And I envy them. In part, it’s because these folks feel entirely comfortable snapping photos of themselves devouring four-topping extra-large pizzas or family-size boxes of doughnuts after a successful race. What I really covet, though, is the almost spiritual experience runners seem to get out of bodily…