Friday, December 23, 2011

Man in tights

I run. That's what I do for exercise -- I run. Some people don't like running. It's too boring, they say, or their knees can't take it. And I can't argue with that. For them, running doesn't work. For me, it does.

I've run competitive races at distances ranging from 5K (3.1 miles) to a full marathon (26.2 miles). I only run 12 miles a week these days, not so much as a function of age but simply time. Training for and running races is time-consuming. I've got five kids, a job with responsibility, and a million other things to do. Leisurely three-hour long runs on Saturday mornings aren't an option the way they used to be.

Which is fine. And by "fine" I mean, "I live with it because I have to, but I really, really wish I could get back into doing a lot more miles every week." Because not only are there health benefits to running -- a good thing in my heart-disease-prone family -- but I actually enjoy it. I love the feeling of getting out there and settling into a steady pace. I love having my iPod going and a nice cool breeze in my face. I love being the only one on the road at 6 in the morning.

I love the gear, too: Running shoes, winter hats, gloves, different types and weights of undershirts, special running shorts, my GPS running watch, and even the tube of skin lubricant that Terry lovingly refers to as my "booby lubey."

I also love the record-keeping. Yes, there's record-keeping in running, at least if you're doing it right. I keep a log book in which I record every run: date, distance, time, temperature, and general comments on how it went. There's also a column in which I keep a running tally of how many miles I've put on a particular pair of shoes, since you're supposed to replace your shoes every 350 to 500 miles. I wait until the 600- or 700-mile mark, to be honest, but that's only because I'm cheap and don't want to shell out another 100 bucks for running shoes.

I don't skip a beat in winter. It's just a matter of dressing right. I have three pairs of what I like to call lycras but that my kids simply call "Daddy's running tights." They're not tights! Well, maybe they are tights, but the rule is that we do not call them tights. Rarely do I exercise fatherly authority in cases of semantics, but in this instance I do. They all ignore me, of course, but officially they're Daddy's lyrcras, not his "tights."

Anyway, the lycras keep my warm, even on the coldest of Northeast Ohio days. I've run in single-digit temperatures and I've run when it's in the 80's. I prefer the single digits since heat and I don't get along well, but I'll do the occasional hot-day run when necessary.

Running, as you may have gathered, can be an addiction. You're not supposed to run every day, but once you start building up those miles and get into a regular rhythm, the scheduled rest days can be torture. Your body wants to get out there and run. It's what it has become accustomed to, and it likes when you treat it to a run.

There will come a time over the next couple of decades when the running isn't as fun anymore, I'm sure. The joints will ache, the muscle tears will become more common, and the booby lubey will be replaced by Ben Gay. All of which is fine. When that happens, I'll switch to power walking or something. In the meantime, I'll continue following my 12-miles-a-week running schedule.

But the most important thing to remember is this: They're not tights. They're lycras.

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