Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Running faces

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  An occasional  meditation on physical and mental fitness goals, successes and failures. 

The other day I went for a run.  In between gasping for air and forcing my legs to keep pumping, I noticed that I get a collection of responses from the passer-bys.  I run along a fairly popular path with a variety of users.  There are the business folk, taking the scenic way home, with their suit jackets slung over the shoulder.  There are the proper runners with lycra and spandex and water bottles.  There are miscellaneous couples in various relationship stages.  There are the groups of young moms and large strollers.  There are young ‘hipsters’ on break from the O2 or Ravensbourne.  There are students.  There are cyclists.  There are environmentalists.   There are construction workers.  There is a random scattering of lost tourists. 
As I weave between these groups I encounter particular facial expressions.  From some, it is a nod of acknowledgement.  This is usually from the other runners or cyclists.  This brief acknowledgement makes me feel like I am part of the cool kids.  I have no desire to run in any organized sort of race, but this a rare experience for me and I'll take it. 
Then there is the blatant stare.  This comes from a cross-section and I’m not sure what it means.  It is just a following stare that doesn’t register that I am returning the gaze.  Is it really that unbelievable that I am out running?  I mean, I know I am moving incredibly slowly so maybe it is astonishment that I am moving forward, or maybe I am foaming at the mouth.  Actually, that might be a viable option.
Then there is the encouragement.  At times this is a ‘you can do it’ kind of nod and smile, maybe even a little air punch.  In my oxygen-deprived state I might have hallucinated the air punch, but I don’t think so.  I have also received the verbal encouragement.  This is weather-specific.  When the weather is overly hot or torrential downpour I have been on the receiving end of ‘You go girl!’
Then there is the laugh.  Now, in all fairness, this is probably brought on by my running antics.  I have recently been forced to change my route due to a path closure (for some cable car/sky walk shenanigans) and it means I have to run along a boring stretch of road.  However, this piece of road has a line of blue poles running parallel along the sidewalk.  The colour is irrelevant, and I don’t know what the poles are actually for, but I have devised a way to make this section of the run a little less boring.  As I run this stretch I weave in and out of the poles.  I figure it counts as ‘changing up the routine’ and I have to admit I get a little vision of myself in a training montage of some sort.  The laugh comes from the guy that sits at a gate along this stretch of road.  I like to think it’s the highlight of his day.
Then there is the wistful smile/glance.  This is usually from the mums loaded down with a few kids and the related equipment.  I don’t know, but maybe they are thinking of the days when they used to have the free time to run.  Or maybe they are wishing they could follow me instead of removing their child from the fence for the tenth time in 3 minutes.  Obviously, I have no idea what their kid is actually doing since I am past in a flash, leaving them tumbling in my slip-stream.  OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration as my passing barely produces a breeze strong enough to knock one of those baby fine hairs out of place. 
Then there is the mocking, haughty, scorn.  I get a kick out of this one as I used to produce this same face at passing runners.  As I have previously covered, I used to be of the opinion that exercise was for the vain.  Moderation was all that was needed to keep us nicely in the ‘healthy’ range.  I was on board for regular exercise in the form of dance, yoga, circus skills, etc.  In short, anything that didn’t resemble actual exercise, or gym-class.  Of course, I then decided to become a professional student and my caboose began to expand in direct proportion to the amount of years spent ‘studying’ while my skin got progressively more and more pale and pasty.  And while all that makes for an even better mocking and scornful face (like something in a Tim Burton cartoon) it doesn’t lend itself to haughty.
I would like to take this moment to apologize to the many runners, cyclists, etc. that were subject to my mocking, haughty, scorn.  I now understand that you were on to something and I was a naïve, brooding, secretly jealous, voyeur.  As I get older, my body likes to remind me that it is calling the shots and the only way to keep a relative peace is to engage in regular exercise.  Phooey.

Then there is the stringy hair, soaking wet, blooming red and exhausted shake of the head.  Me, in the mirror, appalled at my physical state of dampness but pleased that it is all over and hoping the endorphins from all this running will kick in soon.  

Still waiting for those endorphins. 

Any moment now.

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