Last summer, I began doing all kinds of things that fell into the I Said I'd Never Do category. Running was one of them. Up until that point, my motto was pretty much I'll Run If and Only If Someone is Chasing Me. And That Someone Better Have a Weapon.
But I quit smoking last July (the worst decision of my life, but I'll blog about that another day) and felt I needed to replace the habit with something else to absorb my nervous energy. Hopefully something that was significantly less likely to give me cancer. So running entered the picture.
All winter, I ran around 11am, after I completed my work for the day, before the kids came home from school. 11am is a great time to run in suburbia, since all the drop-offs are finished, yoga-moms are doing dishes and the yuppie larvae aren't sprawled across the front lawns yet, jumping on their own private trampolines and whining at yoga-mom about artikim. The streets are quiet.
Amazingly, though, I discovered that in the summer, if you run at 11am, you will die. Seriously. We live in the Middle East. It's a hundred degrees in the middle of the day. Nobody is out in when the sun is high in the sky. So, I amended my running time to 6am, figuring I'd beat the heat, and I might only have to wake at the crack of dawn for a few months until the sultriness subsided.
But I underestimated. If I leave the house at 6, and the sun comes up around 6:15, I am running in full sun by 6:30, and that sucks. I'm panting hard, and believe me (even though the Red Tube MILF channel would have you believe otherwise) watching a sweaty almost 40 year old mother of 3 panting ain't so sexy. Plus, by 6:30, people are starting to leave for work, so I have to encounter regular people and smile and nod at them, mid-pant. I hate smiling and nodding. Don't get me wrong - my background is in HR, so smiling and nodding at people I don't like comes naturally to me. But I still hate it.
Then, somebody from my moshav approached me about joining his running team. "We meet at 5:30 at the front gate" he told me. 5:30 in the morning? Which means that they get up at - what - five? Are these people fucking bionic?
"All the serious runners are out at that hour" he tells me. I'm suddenly in 4th grade, and somebody dared me. Called me a chicken. "All the cool kids are doing it" he may as well have clucked. I can hear the "bawwwwk, bawk bawk bawk" beckoning me. Mocking me.
You guessed it - the next morning, my spandex clad ass was out the front door at 5:25.
I did not join Moshav Dude's running team - perhaps I'm too green in this whole running without someone chasing me thing, but for me - I just don't get the whole "run with other people" idea. Here are several reasons why:
First, I probably look pretty funny when I run. I have this very sexy ailment called Plantar Fasciitis (fasciitis - tell me that doesn't sound like Sheldon's last name) which isn't dangerous but makes running painful for the first kilometer or so. Once I get past that point, the pain subsides - but for the first kilometer, I bet my face resembles an acute state of constipation.
Second, have you heard about Dance Walking? So I'm kinda Dance Running. Since I have a job (ok, three jobs) and some kids, I'm often passed out by 10:30pm and the clubs don't even open until midnight. Suffice it to say that I'm not In Da Club very often these days. Running is my only opportunity to dance. I'm doing the Cabbage Patch while rounding the corner. I've been known to pull a Rocky at the top of Ass Hill. I don't know the name of the street, but I call it Ass Hill because it kicks my ass. Every. Damn. Time.
I have a tendency to do the white man's overbite while passing the bougainvillea that looks like its on steroids, right after Ass Hill.
You see why I have to run when normal people are sleeping?
Plus, I'm beginning to really embrace the early hour. There is a regular menagerie of fellow lunatics I've become accustomed to, plus the people-watching is pretty great. For example, the guy who delivers newspapers makes his rounds at about 4,000 miles an hour, in a truck that is half rust, half something that actually runs, with one hand, while smoking a cigarette. I've seen him throw papers (accurately) with his driving hand while refusing to employ the smoking hand for any other purpose - apparently it's dedicated. That, of course, means that no one is driving the truck while he's throwing. Yet I've never seen him crash. He gives me a nice wave, and if he catches me on a walking-break, he yells "Ay! Aizeh min ritzah zeh, atzlanit?" which translates to "Ay!" (I guess I didn't need to translate that) "What kind of running is that, lazybones?"
There's the fit-as-hell Grandmother (can we say GILF?) who dons her stripey track pants and speed-walks circles around the rest of us, pumping those scrawny little arms of hers up and down while consistently offering me a "Boker Tov" or "Shavua Tov" or "Chodesh Tov" as appropriate.
There is a smattering of Arab workers, but two in particular who have taken a shine to me. One, for an inexplicable reason, sprawls himself out on a bench in a Mrs. Robinson pose. He doesn't move when I go by, but he winks at me. Every time. And the second one, on his way to a work site with his sack-lunch at his side, gives me a cheery thumbs up.
My favorite is a newcomer to the morning exercise scene - he's at least 70, wearing studio sized headphones, and carrying a long baton which he uses to conduct the imaginary orchestra facing him as he glides through the streets.
I consistently see soldiers in full regalia (M-16 included) leaving half-clad, tearful girlfriends to head back to base. Yeshiva kids, clearly after an all-nighter, attempting to sneak back into their dorm unobtrusively. Lone middle aged mountain bikers who look recently divorced in their never used but very expensive gear.
Five effing thirty? Yep. Worth it. If not for the workout, for the entertainment value alone.