My Love has been trying to persuade me to take up jogging since shortly after we first met which, I feel compelled to point out, was at a keg party.
In those days, she'd arise at an hour still better suited for last call than lacing up one's Sauconys and by the time the sun had even considered peeping out from under its earthly covers, she would have already logged half a dozen miles. Not an attractive trait in my book of love, but I admit that I did admire the dividends her regimen paid in other -- ahem -- areas that grabbed my attention during the early stages of the mating ritual.
In the 17 years we've know each other since, she's run marathons in Honolulu, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City and half marathons elsewhere. To me, these are all certifiable acts of insanity or, at the very least, signs she needs a more stimulating and purposeful hobby. Re-grouting bathroom tile, for example, also has a clear starting and ending point, offers great emotional and physical satisfaction upon completion and results in very similar aches and pains in the lower extremities.
I have tried jogging before. My Love and some co-workers conned me into running a 5K many years back. After only a few practice runs, it felt as though John Daly had lined a tee shot directly into the side of my left knee. I eventually ran the race, but my knee stayed cranky for months afterward and that's where my running career hit the wall.
(This is the point when whenever I tell this story that My Love shakes her head and calls me something endearing like "wuss." Running, it is clear, does not build one's empathy toward the lame.)
Sometime early last year, though, I found myself forced into an occasional run that for once had nothing to do about the urgency to reach an unoccupied bathroom.
I blame our dog, Murphy.
While on our walks, our 3-year-old Labrador retriever, sometimes decides he'd rather be going in a different direction if not going at all. When these moments hit, he simply locks all four legs in "park" or just lies down all together. Since modern dog training methods frown on yanking a dog into mobility and physically lifting Murphy, who weighs about 75 pounds, offers only a solution for the literal short haul, an alternative had to be found.
This is when I'd take a treat, hold it inches from his snout then pull it back while uttering the words I never thought I'd say aloud, with any sense of enthusiasm, to man or beast:
"OK -- let's go for a run!"
These were short burst semi-sprints: a few dozen feet to maybe a few dozen yards at a time. During the winter, when the golf course by our neighborhood lay deserted except for northern winds and rotting snow, Murphy's leash would be detached and we'd run the odd fairway or two.
When I mentioned this to My Love, her face brightened like a child on Christmas morning. I told her not to get carried away by this. I said it again after my subsequent decision to purchase a pair of running shoes for it could just be a passing phase like that time I was fascinated by mutton chop sideburns.
Spring, summer and fall went by without anything more than my occasional run to jumpstart the pup. Then three weeks ago, in the dead of New England winter, I did it. I hopped onto our treadmill in the toasty basement and put in a little more than a mile.
I did it again last week.
Once I even did a mile and a half, picking up the pace so it was less of a brisk walk and more of a vague approximation of an ungainly trot.
I can't say I loved it, but I definitely didn't loathe it, either.
Hallelujah! I've achieved indifference!
That's the same as an endorphin high, right?