Questions and answers from a local long-distance runner

There was a time when running was considered a ‘fountain of youth’. Fueled by American victories in the Olympic and Boston marathons, the cult of the “long-distance runner” captured the nation’s imagination and the five-minute mile became legend. Breathless accounts of jogging’s many benefits drove up a boom in the sales of running shoes and jogging clothes.

As the glory faded into memory, many discovered the loneliness of long-distance running. ‘Beefy’ replaced ‘thin’; the boom saw its bust. Soon the sidewalks became less crowded as ‘joggers’ retreated to the comfort of indoors. In 2003, what is the legacy of long-distance running’s boom? A Nike-shod nation that is addicted to casual footwear and fashionable running clothes.

Yet there remains a cadre of runners who still lace up on a regular basis and ‘hit the pavement’. I wouldn’t be surprised if the humane genome project discovered a gene for running because, in my case, that need has always seemed innate and first became evident in my early teens when I ran with the Hartford Courant newspaper from door to door before sunrise each morning.

The boom in running gave America a fascination with fancy running shoes

As long distance runners, we’ve become a curiosity now; but luckily, we’re pretty ignored. Occasionally, when polite conversation lags, long-distance runners can be asked the following questions. Here follows a short diary from a dedicated long-distance runner:

Why do you run? To lose weight? How does a runner respond to such a question? Where are the hip philosophers who churned out essays and books on this theme? It would seem that many people regard runners as people with the mystique of ascetic monks.

Fortunately, upon discovery of my fondness for the crispetycrunchety goodness of fat-rich “Butterfingers” candy, most of my new acquaintances react with surprise and relief and stop asking me this question.

No doubt, freedom from diet fads and always fitting into one’s oldest clothing are privileges we shouldn’t take for granted. But running feeds more innate hungers, such as:

In 1982, running (and Jordan Marsh, now long gone) were big in Worcester.

Maybe it’s a thirst for adventure: The warm tide of adrenaline spreading through the bloodstream is exhilarating and a primeval sensation, which helps when one becomes the object of road rage while crossing any of the city’s pedestrian-hostile intersections.

Or the need to get outside and breath fresh air: Worcester runners treasure the hydrocarbon-rich haze of an August afternoon along Park Avenue: ‘so much air, so little oxygen’.

We enjoy the great outdoors? Country runners have their dewy meadows, verdant forests and wild critters. But the urban landscape is far more thought provoking. Its scenery poses life’s truly ponderous questions. Marveling at the abundance of balled-up diapers tossed upon the sidewalks, we ask: Why are so many people changing bebé en tránsito? Are SUV’s equipped with diaper depots? And what’s with all the BVD’s lying in the gutter? Why are so many guys winging underwear out their car windows?