Friday, July 23, 2010

My Mortal Enemy

I am in week 2 of training for a marathon in November, although I have been running all year in preparation for this training and completed a 10K in June. This blog will serve as the lasting record of all of my steps, and mis-steps toward making that goal happen.

I have a mortal enemy.

I know, I know. Who would want to kill a nice, harmless, goofy fool like me?

I met my mortal enemy (MME for short) at a Christmas party about seven years ago. We formed an instant and convenient friendship.

Turned out I wanted get into running and MME was a fantastic motivator. What could possibly go wrong?

When spring rolled around, we arranged to go on our first run together. It was terrific. There I was running and there MME was prodding me along and keeping me going when I wanted to stop.

At the end of the run, I looked right at his face and saw a curious expression.

There was no smile of encouragement. No nod of approval.

He just looked right back and said, “35 minutes. That wasn’t very fast, was it?”

“Come on now, MME,” I said. “It’s my first time out in a long time. It wasn’t going to be fast no matter how well this went.”

“I don’t know,” MME said. “I’ve seen a lot better out of fifth-grade girls. Do you really want to be outrun by a fifth-grade girl?”

“How fast is she? Whoa, now wait a minute here,” my initial shock was melting into awkward arm-flailing rage. “I invited you on this run. I didn’t have to bring you with me. If I wanted someone to make fun of me, I would’ve invited the high school track team. Just who do you think you are?”

“Hey man, it’s just what I do, OK?”

In that moment, our friendship was no longer instant or convenient. MME was an uncomfortable and often unwelcome partner on my runs.

The worst part about it was that he’d wait until the end, when I was too exhausted or too out of breath to fight back, to pour on his insults.

“43:05. I really thought you were going to pass that snail there at the end …”

“38:04. Does it really count as a run if you had to take a five-minute break to hyperventilate over there by the fishing pond?”

“36:15. Have you thought about taking up chess?”

The abuse was manageable -- perhaps even a little motivational. But it wasn’t long before MME, as most super villains do, began to develop a hyper-evil alter ego.

He took on a Spanish name (because everything sounds more sinister in Spanish) -- El Cronómetro -- and his evil game evolved from simple insults to cruel tricks.

When I’d be running exceptionally well, I’d look down at him in search of his approval only to find that he wasn’t paying any attention, or that he’d stopped entirely.

“How am I supposed to know how fast I’ve run?” I’d scream in exasperation.
MME, or El Cronómetro as he now insisted on being called, took to taunting me entirely in Spanish.

“Usted hombre tonto, lento-footed. Es mejor Está aquí. Le salvo la desilusión de realización usted podría mirar todo "Titanic" y volver tres veces para mirar al Rey de la secuencia Mundial en el tiempo esto le toma para dirigir 5 kilómetros. Ah, ah, ah,”

Which is to say, “You silly, slow-footed man. It is better this way. I save you the disappointment of realizing you could watch all of "Titanic" and go back three times to watch the King of the World sequence in the time it takes you to run 5 kilometers. Ha, ha, ha.”

“EL CRONOMETRO!!!” I’d scream his name as I‘d fall to my knees, shaking him violently above my head. Turns out everything is more dramatic in Spanish as well.

But he insisted on continuing to torment me.

Seven years he’s accompanied me on my runs, his eerie face beaming at me with that incandescent indigo-tinged glow as he ticks off every second, every step, all the while reminding me exactly where I stand in real time.

Feel like I‘m doing exceptionally well?

“No está tan bien como usted piensa, pero tengo que decir que usted se mueve un poco más rápido que la pintura secante.” (That means: Not as good as you think, but I have to say you are moving a little faster than drying paint.)

And on those days where I’m just completely off my game?

“Este es por qué usted no come dos libras burrito antes de que usted corra. Su principio para parecer usted tiene una pelota de bolos que arde cubierta del queso nacho que rueda alrededor del interior ello. ¡Oye, tal vez si usted encendió un partido y lo ingirió, usted podría ir más rápido!

I had to look that one up, but it essentially means, This is why you don't eat a two-pound burrito before you run. Your start to feel like you've got a flaming bowling ball covered with nacho cheese rolling around inside it. Hey, maybe if you lit a match and swallowed it, you might go faster!

Thanks, El Cronómetro.

The point here, is that in the last week I’ve had a revelation. The time has simply come for Old Crony, as I’ve started calling him, and I to part ways.

I thought about it as I picked him up before a 3-mile jog and thought, “Why are you still here?”

“Sólo fastidiarle,” meaning, “Just to tick you off.”

Everything about every training program I’ve read has said for your first marathon, all that really matters is the distance you put in, especially if your goal is just to finish.

Why not start taking that seriously?

No one ever asks how fast you run a marathon, (“Whoa, 5 hours. What is that, like two minutes per mile?”) They’re only interested in whether or not you finished.

I’ve even read that if you go in with a time goal your first time out, your chances of actually finishing greatly decrease.

So time, as of last week, is no longer of any essence in this endeavor. Which is good, because Old Crony was really starting to stink after running with me for the last seven years.

As a result, I’ve had some of the most enjoyable, relaxing runs I’ve had, well, ever.

I’ve been taking the kids out in the jogging stroller, because it really doesn’t matter how long it takes. We can stop and look at things, or talk to people. All that matters from hereon is the distance.

So that’s what I’ll do.

As old Crony would say , “Esto está bien, porque este tipo no podía dirigir 100 metros en el tiempo esto le tomó para leer este blog.”

I’m nearing the end of a 13-mile week (it was supposed to be 16, but we took the kids to the park on Tuesday, which was infinitely more fun). Next week is a 15-mile week. We’ll see.

P.S. El Cronómetro = The Stopwatch.

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