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by Dallas Smith

The ramp curved off the four-lane in the west Tennessee countryside. Not much around—a truck stop on one side, a motel on the other. I pulled up to the motel. As near as I could tell, it was as handy as any other place to spend the night before the 5-mile park race know as the Race on the Trace, at Natchez Trace State Park.

Then I saw a large dark building sitting next to the motel that advertised topless dancers and catfish platters. Catfish? Topless dancers excite a craving for catfish? Looked like the place had closed though; maybe the combination of sex and fish didn’t work out. Something about the ambiance, I guess. I noticed the party girls had moved a couple hundred yards further down the road, to another establishment that was lit up, one that didn’t traffic in catfish.

I turned down the alley between the dark building and the motel. The rooms lining that side of the motel faced the dark building. Angled parking slots fronted the rooms. There were no cars parked there, only a pickup truck down at the far end. Just as I swung the truck into my parking spot I saw the drapery of the next room fall back furtively. Someone was in there peeking out—which struck me as a little strange, since there were no cars around anywhere, a small mystery next door.

The mystery was solved as soon as Isettled down in my room. The telephone rang. It was the matron at the front desk, a friendly, portly woman who had already come and unlocked the room for me—the door locks were difficult, and I’d had trouble opening mine.
“Is your room okay?” she asked, on the phone now.
“Oh yeah, it’s fine. I just turned the TV on. Everything’s working fine,” I told her.
“Do you need anything; could I get you anything?”
“No, no, I’m doing fine, don’t need a thing.”
“Well, if you need anything at all, just let me know, okay?”
I told her okeydokey, I sure would, and thanks a lot. Which was a lie, because I’d forgotten my toothpaste. The next morning I brushed with motel shampoo; carpet cleaner would’ve tasted better. (Later at the race when I told running friend Ladona about the shampoo incident, she hooted and hollered. “Well, anyhow, it made a rich lather,” I said.)

Anyway, now I thought I knew the story on the woman behind the curtain in the next room—a working girl. Maybe between dance gigs—or maybe one whose looks were already enough gone she wasn’t pretty without clothes anymore. There is a high premium on that. “She’d even look good naked,” says a guy I know. But it takes a babe.

The motel matron must have been surprised when I turned out to be a no-sale. I had to look like a good bet—an old guy who could most likely afford the tab, putting up for the night unusually early. An old guy traveling alone, he must be looking for love for sale, otherwise why would he stop in the boonies at a seedy location advertising sex.
A no-sale all right. You don't buy sex, you don’t give blood. That’s the way it is. Too much chance of catching hepatitis-C or HIV. There goes your training. The Red Cross doesn’t like the odds, and I don’t either, a sucker bet all around. And who wants a nagging conscience anyway, gnawing like a rat.
Something about sex I recall reading in a magazine—a study showed that marathoners who had sex the night before a race ran faster than those who had not. I wonder if the study accounted for other factors—age, weight, health, and so on. Maybe they only proved that young, pretty, healthy people run faster than old, ugly, unhealthy ones. I don’t remember. I also read that old men who run high weekly mileage produce higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone than those who don’t. You can run yourself young again. Soon you’re chasing women and acting stupid.

Here’s what this points to. If you run enough, you develop the testosterone-driven libido of a billy goat. Más amor, in turn, promotes more running, enhancing libido still further, starting a cycle—a heavenward spiral of sex and speed, circling out of sight like a buzzard in an updraft. A stud duck age-grouper.
The next day I ran 38 seconds better than the age-group state record.
That pretty much destroyed the theory that sated geezers go faster. I doubt I would’ve run any better if a covey of dancing girls had visited my room. Apparently, pre-race amor is not essential. Brushing teeth with shampoo, however, deserves further study.

DALLAS SMITH is a retired engineering professor from Cookeville. He is one of the top over-65 marathon runners in the U.S. and is the author of Falling Forward: Tales from an Endurance Saga.

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