FUN CONVERSATIONS WITH NON-RUNNERS
by Tanya Savory | published 04.08.09
PART I: THE 4-MINUTE MANAGER
A year or so ago, a friend and I were out having 5000 margaritas when we ran into a business client of her's. He was a convivial little fat man dressed in the look-at-how-HUGE-my-stomach-is fashion that is ever-popular in the South. This is a look achieved, first, by wearing a t-shirt that is roughly two sizes too small. Next, the shirt must be tucked into the pants. Finally, while one might feel that the resulting accentuation of abdominal atrocity is sufficient, it is not; a belt must be cinched to hell just beneath the gut so that the end result is not unlike a 10-pound sack of flour hanging over a thin fence rail.
Anyway, this man - let’s call him “Bob” - chatted pleasantly with Cheryl about stocks, flow charts, unrealized gains, and… Oh, sorry, I just nodded off. After an interminable expanse of time (5 minutes) spent discussing unimportant things like money, the subject somehow shifted to the fact that I had a marathon coming up. Bob said the word “marathon” carefully as though it was a newly discovered subspecies of the common cockroach. He gave me a long, unimpressed look, and then suddenly got a dreamy, faraway expression on his cherubic little face.
“I ran a 5K marathon back in the nineties,” he said with great authority. “Oh boy, is there ever a story about that marathon!”
I’m not sure I can accurately impart to you just how rapidly I ordered another margarita.
“Yep. Think it was ‘95, maybe ‘96,” Bob continued, patting his belly for emphasis. “Went out and ran one of those three-mile marathon deals without ever training at all. But, you know, I used to bowl a lot, so I was in pretty good shape and all. Anyway, you all are not going to believe how fast I ran that first mile.”
The vision in my head was of a siphon attached directly to a monstrous tank of tequila and the on/off switch at my disposal.
“Well, I just took off as fast as I could go. Whoooo!! I was FA-lying!! So I come up to the one-mile sign and I had run it in under four minutes.” At this point, Bob’s eyes looked like they were about ready to pop out of his head. He looked directly at me and said, “that’s pretty durn fast, right? I mean, have you ever run the first mile in a 5K marathon that fast?”
I could feel the waves of Don’t be rude, he’s a client... Don’t be rude, he’s a client… emitting from Cheryl and slapping me upside the head. Still, this was just too staggeringly classic to leave alone.
“No. No, I can honestly say that I’ve never run a mile that fast in a 5K marathon. Four minutes. Wow. That is fast,” I agreed dramatically. “So, I’m guessing there were no other runners with you when you reached the one mile marker, then?”
Bob looked confused. He glanced at Cheryl for support, but she was suddenly fascinated by the chip bowl. “Well, no, there were other guys ahead of me. You know, the real fast guys who had probably trained and stuff. But I know it was four minutes,” Bob added sullenly. “I looked at my watch.”
“Hmmm,” I responded. “So what was your finishing time? I’m guessing you must have had a pretty good time what with doing the first mile in four minutes and all.”
Bob cheered up at this. “No, that was the craziest thing about it! My overall time was like 40 minutes. So I guess I really slowed down in the other two miles. That first mile just drained me.”
Poor, wretched, confused, belt-cinched-to-hell, Bob. I had to say something. A more pleasant person would have just let the idiocy of it all pass by with no more ire than one might have when a 3rd-grader insists that he is growing a tail. But, I’m simply not that pleasant.
“You know, I’m wondering if either the mile marker might have been off or your watch was broken.”
Large silence loomed while major huffiness gathered and mulitiplied. Hints of steam appeared outside Bob’s ears.
“I only wonder that,” I added nonchalantly, “since the world record for the mile is about 3:45.”
I think it was at this point that Cheryl excused herself. Probably to go to the bathroom and sadly delete Bob’s info from her business contacts on her cell phone. Bob briefly looked as though his head might blow right off his shoulders, leaving only a charred nub. Then, just as quickly, a superior, epiphany-like expression crossed his face.
“I didn’t say I ran a world record for the mile. I said it was four minutes for just the first mile of a 5K marathon. Geez. I’m not that fast.”
PART II: THE 26.2 STICKER
Another inspiring chat I had with a non-runner occurred at a Mapco station not far from Bucksnort, TN. Yes, really.
I was just finishing getting gas when I heard the person getting gas behind me burst into an airhorn-level paroxysm of coughing. I turned to see an old guy simulataneously hacking, balancing a cigarette on his lip, and pointing to my car. (I’d like to take just a moment here to fondly savor all the times I’ve seen people smoking directly over a gasoline nozzle, the magical gateway to 15,000 gallons of flammable, explosive fuel!) He was wearing a cap that had a picture of a bass (the fish, not the instrument) on it with “Kiss My Bass!” in jaunty scripty letters beneath it.
“What’s that there mean? I seen those everywhere!” he said pointing to the (here, I must shamefully and publicly admit to having a) 26.2 bumper sticker on my car. “That some verse from the Bible, ain’t it?” he asked without the slightest shred of sarcasm.
Is it wrong that I was moderately tempted to just say, “Yes. Definitely a Bible reference. Very biblical,” wave and smile and drive off? Instead, it went like this:
“No, it stands for miles in a race.”
“Race? What kind of dang race only goes 26 miles? Hell, that’s like only 50 times around Bristol.”
“Oh. No. Not a NASCAR race—a running race. Like with people.”
There was a pause of disbelief and then a growing chuckle that resulted in another ear-splitting bout of extended coughing. All the while, he continued pointing at the bumper sticker the way a child might point at a monkey riding a bicycle. I really had no choice but to stand there smiling idiotically until the hacking spree ended. Finally, he regained composure and looked at me, shaking his head.
“Now, that just don’t seem healthy,” he said, lighting up a nice new Camel. ” Not a speck healthy a tall. Why would you want to go and do a thing like that anyway?”
“Well, you know,” I said, desperately trying to think of any decent reason to run 26.2 miles that would not come across as abject hilarity to Camel Man. “Just to see if you can do it.”
He doubled over. He gripped the side of his car to steady himself as his shoulders shook with helpless laughter. Several blasts that sounded closer to a foghorn than anything else came from him. When he looked up, he pulled a hanky out to pat at his eyes. He continued to keep a grasp on his rearview mirror in an effort to avoid collapsing from the sheer humor of it all.
“Ma’am, I have got to tell you that there’s a heap of things I wouldn’t try to do that I might or might not be able to do just in order to see if I could do them.”
I really couldn’t argue with that logic. More specifically, I couldn’t understand what he meant.
I was getting into my car, and thought I should offer one more argument for running 26.2 miles, and so, naturally, I said the lamest thing possibly imaginable. “Well, it’s fun. You should try one some day.”
For a second Camel Man looked as though he might pass out. I started my car and was just getting ready to leave when he came over and tapped on my window.
“What’s that extry point two miles for?” he asked when I rolled the window down. “Twenty-six miles ain’t good enough?”
I sighed. “They added an extra 385 yards in the original marathon so that the runners could finish in front of the king and queen’s royal viewing box.”
As I drove off, I could see Camel Man reel backward and grab his chest. He sprawled across his car and smacked his fist repeatedly on the hood, foghorning and laughing away.
TR contributor TANYA SAVORY is a Nashville-based singer, songwriter and runner, with a 5K PR of 18:55 and a marathon PR of 3:28. She regularly blogs at http://tanyas.wordpress.com/