The thing that people like me -- people who hate running -- say about running is that they don't do it unless they're being chased. But I'm not even sure that being chased is an especially good reason to run. If you can't outwit a dinosaur, thief or zombie using your wiles and tool-making skills, you really may as well just hand over whatever it is they seem to want from you. And if you are running for reasons other than being chased, well, you are the worst kind of crazy. The kind of crazy that society has normalized because what the hell else can you do with large groups of people with a supremely disturbing pathology except pretend that it, well, isn't? Explains lots of things, like the NRA and Jonas Brothers fans.
That said, I know a lot of nice people who do the running. And they're nice because they keep that shit to themselves, largely staying out of the way except for the one day out of the year wherein the White Rock Marathon stragglers make it a little harder to get to the bar once I've peeled myself out of bed around noon. (Though, to be fair, waking up to watch the nuts run the marathon is a great excuse to perfect your Irish Coffees, your Bloody Marys, your Natty Lights.)
I'm all the more pissed off, then, that after yesterday's Jailbreak race out at some redneck paintball dreamland in Denton County, I'm forced to report that I had a good time running 3.8 miles through stinking mud and stagnant water. Add to this the whole cliched thing wherein I'm being the writer who hates something until she tries it and then she discovers it's not so bad after all. Powerfully disappointing, whichever way you look at it.
Ass-early Sunday morning, when the Man O' The Hour and I boarded the bus at Texas Motor Speedway to hitch a ride to the aforementioned redneck paintball dreamland, I was already more than an hour into a non-stop bitchfest about how I couldn't believe I'd signed up for this horseshit, and at 9:30 a.m. no less, just for a damned blog item. The bus driver asked me if I was nervous. "No. I just don't want to be here." I got close to some full-on Sally Draper-style tantrumming.
And, dear God, standing around in the starting pen before the race with a load of mostly wholesome race-runners wearing matching T-shirts and puppy-dog grins was nearly more than I could bear. Sure, I was aware that there were people in the world for whom wearing wacky colored socks is the height of entertainment. I just hadn't seen them all together, at once, getting excited about physical exhaustion. When a boot-camp guy got on a megaphone and had everyone doing high knees before the race, I stood in awe. "This is what happens before you pledge allegiance to the Dark Lord," said Man O' The Hour, solemnly. Funny, to him. Not me. I was about to run into the woods with this bunch of jerks while he sits around reading Harper's or some similar wankery on his iPad in the comfort of the shade, with a complimentary Monster energy drink to boot.
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But it was something about half-swimming through chest-high water not 10 minutes into the race that changed my mind. The marathon-running, morning-jogger assbags had taken off well in front of the rest of us, who were whinily muddling our way through horse-poop potholes and awkwardly clambering over vertical tire walls on riverbanks. Several people expressed a desire for a cigarette. Others looked forward to the free beers that awaited us at the finish line.
Somewhere between the third mud pit and the river jog, I had to admit to myself that damnit, this was a little bit fun. And I guess I could say that at the very least it was for a good cause -- clean water in India courtesy of Jesus or something like that -- but that wasn't really on my mind. I was just kind of enjoying army-crawling through slop while being sprayed down with a fire house and trying to hang on to my left contact lens.
Short of putting in a zip line, I'm not sure what could have made the Jailbreak more fun. Yes, the long and winding jog through a paintball course mid-race was a slog, but you'd be surprised how much easier it is to keep up a fair clip when the prospect of jumping in a muddy river awaits not far ahead. I crossed the finish line in 55 minutes, well under the 1.5 hours I'd estimated given my general lifestyle of rich food, copious booze and late nights.
I tied the laces of my steaming, stinking running shoes together and threw them in the pile of other obliterated footwear near the hose-off station and felt pretty freaking good about myself. I enjoyed the mass scrambling, half-assed silliness, ostensibly for a good cause, that allows squares (a category in which I grudgingly admit I fall into, bitching about crazy sock-wearers notwithstanding) to cut loose for a few hours. There's nothing worse than having to change your mind about large groups of people and admit that maybe you're the one who's the asshole, but I guess here I am saying so, anyway. Still, I totally fail to understand marathon runners and morning joggers. Anyone comfortable being alone with their own thoughts for extended periods of time ought to get checked out. So, runners: I'll trade you the number for my therapist for the number to your gym. Deal?