05 September 2008

You Look... Mahvelous!

After an unusually cool and wet July and August, summer finally decided to arrive here in New England yesterday. Apparently summer was scared that a tropical storm (Hanna is on the way, arriving tomorrow) would show up before it showed its face and it risked suffering grave embarrassment. While it wasn’t blistering, it drove enough humidity that our contingent of seven intrepid running club die-hards who showed up at the local track for some speed work last night ended up soaked to the skin. Ah, there’s nothing quite like when I arrive home and bound up the stairs as fast as I can to avoid leaving too many drips on the rug along the way and proceed to jump in the shower fully clothed. It’s really the only way to detoxify the togs.

The discussion after our intervals, spurred by significant fluid losses, centered on the diminutive, as we compared our weights, trading numbers that would make most ‘normal’ people cringe and put a lot of health clubs out of business. Since most who read this are runners, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but it’s worth stopping to appreciate the amazing impact this little hobby has on the human body.

Not that every runner out there, or every runner in our club, or even every runner at the track last night is a string bean. But we’re all enjoying the fabulous freedom to pretty much eat whatever we darn well please. Imagine, I was at a picnic a couple weeks ago and weeks ago and was bummed to open the cooler and see only light beers. Having cranked out close to 20 that morning, light beer just wasn’t part of the carb replenishment plan I had in mind… But you can’t explain these things to ‘normal’ people.

Now, I’ve never grown to the size to qualify for the Big Man Run (read the Big Man Run Creed for a smile or two!), but over the gap between the First and Second laps, despite all the hiking, cycling, walking, and yes, I mow my own lawn (lawn service? Shirley, you jest! Get off your lazy duffs and mow it yourself, people!), the poundage crept northward. By the numbers I’d added a solid 35% over my First Lap days. Suddenly photos started making my look, uh, considerable. Not considerable in the societal norm way (I still fit easily into airline seats), but certainly considerable compared to my historic weenie guy self.

Then came the Second Lap. Within a few months of starting, Einstein’s magic set in and mass turned into energy (yes, I know, this was the chemical, not nuclear quantum relativistic E=mc2 style of conversion, never mind, it’s just creative writing). Within months a full thirty pounds vanished. On a weenie small-framed 5’7” guy, it makes a difference. Back to within just 10 pounds over those First Lap days. Being the frugal type (a much nicer word than cheap), this of course means extra holes in the belts and an expanded definition of the popular phrase, “casual fit”.

I’m not alone. Fellow sweat-sponge Bill at our speed workout tells the same story. Six months. Thirty pounds. My First Lap coach & mentor still runs, purely for the joy of burning off his beer. And our Fred Brown Relay team back in 2006 was aptly named Run to Eat. You get it. Running is simply amazing.

Which brings me to my neighbor. A fine guy, and yes, he mows his own lawn, though on a tractor, but he’s got a double lot, so we’ll give him that. But not one you’d think of as the athletic type. Not the athletic build. He looked like, well, like a guy who mows his lawn on a tractor.

Funny thing happened. His daughter moved to The Cape (that’s Cape Cod if you don’t live here, it is the only cape that matters, in the fashion that New Yorkers refer to The City, which irks us native Upstate New Yorkers). Specifically, to Falmouth, home of both my first marathon and, more importantly for this story, the famed Falmouth Road Race. Last summer on a lark he and his family jumped in. Darn near killed ‘im, I think. This summer, he got serious. He started training, for real. He worked up to it and ran the whole thing, not in any record time (by his words, he did beat a few old ladies in wheel chairs), but well enough to earn some well deserved pride. And in the process, the transformation was rapid and amazing.

I might have some of the details wrong – I didn’t interview him and take notes. No matter. In only a couple months or so, he looks great. I mean, as in, even far away you can tell. It’s an extreme makeover sponsored by Asics or Nike or whoever. And it caught him a little by surprise. He didn’t even think to weigh in before this, so he doesn’t even know how much he lost.

Another funny thing: he’s hooked. I caught up with him the other day a mile or so from our homes and several weeks after Falmouth. I was so pleased to see him out after the race as I didn’t know if it would stick. His comment: “I think I understand you now, I can’t stand a day when I don’t run!”

I love this sport.

Art, congratulations, and by the way, if you remember Billy Crystal’s SNL character Fernando, “You look… mahvelous!”

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