I’m having difficulty convincing friends and colleagues that jogging is neither a group sport nor a competitive activity. For me, anyway.
I began running slightly more than six years ago when my doctor told me I needed to find some type of regular cardiovascular workout to offset both advancing age and advancing pounds. I picked jogging because it was something I could do without investing in a gym membership, without hiring a personal trainer, and best of all, without buying clothing I didn’t already possess. Also, I wouldn’t need anybody to show me how to do it. I’ve been running from responsibility for fifty years, now. Turns out, you can pretty much use the same muscles for both.
Apart from the very first time that I jogged for an extended period of time, when I was pretty sure my lungs were either going to burst or I was going to have a heart attack, things have worked out nicely. There’s a very nice running/bicycling/dog-walking trail near my house, and I’m over there three times a week. I can’t say that I’ve embraced the concept; I’ve never experienced a “runner’s high,” and that’s fine. I do my little thing, keeping to myself, wearing my not-exactly-top-of-the-line shoes and clothing, and trying not to draw too much attention to myself. It’s my own little concession to maintaining a reasonably healthy lifestyle, nothing more. With added emphasis on the “reasonably;” somebody’s got to keep the doughnut-makers in business, after all.
The side effect of taking up this activity was having an apparently ceaseless parade of friends who keep trying to get me to run in organized races and–heaven forbid–marathons. The mere response of explaining that I don’t want to hasn’t deterred them. “It’ll be fun,” some say. “It’ll be easy; it’s not that much further than you run already,” others tell me. Despite the fact that they have absolutely no idea how far I run. “You’ll be with friends and other people who like to run,” still others declare. Except… I don’t actually like to run. What I like is having finished running, and knowing I won’t have to do it again for a little while.
I can be perfectly sociable, especially if it’s over dinner, or a beer, or even one of those aforementioned doughnuts. I do not want to be sociable when I run. That’s my alone time. My sweating and grunting and sometimes-whimpering time. My how-soon-before-this-is-over time. So, if you see me huffing and puffing my way down a jogging trail, feel free to say hi as we pass. I’ll nod and maybe respond with an out-of-breath hello of my own. Just don’t ask to join me, or suggest I accompany you to some race taking place next weekend. Things will turn ugly fast. Even uglier than the hopelessly out-of-fashion clothing I will be wearing at the time.