Run, Forrest, Run: Why I Hate Jogging
Why? Because I live in a majority black neighborhood in downtown Nashville where no one ever jogs. No one. When you jog here, people look behind you to see who you're running from. Once they confirm that you've chosen to run on your own and aren't being pursued, they make fun of you. "Run, Forrest, run!" my neighbors call from the shady comfort of their front porches, from the insides of their air-conditioned cars, from the jungle gym in the neighborhood park.
Yep, I'm white, I have a beard, and I jog. This makes me Forrest Gump to everyone in the neighborhood.
The first time I was taunted by kids playing in the neighborhood park. Five kids were standing in line to come down the yellow slide, and I jogged past them. Without skipping a beat a young girl of about 10, pointed me out, "Run, Forrest, run!" she said. Everyone laughed. It took me a while to realize exactly what had been said, but by now I'm used to it. Everyone from eight to 80 is doing it, making fun of me while I jog, reinforcing my distaste for running with every step.
While you jog you have lots of time to think. Often, I count down the reasons why I hate to jog in my head. They go something like this:
1. I don't ever get a second wind. Never. Ever. In my entire life of running, I've never suddenly felt my legs lighten and believed I could go on running for days. I don't believe second winds actually exist.
2. People who I convince to go jogging with me end up doing better than me. This has happened three times. The first time with my college roommate, Krisha, the second time with my wife and the third time with my friend Tardio. Now they jog all the time for miles on end. They enjoy it. I still hate it.
3. I live in Nashville and am allergic to everything on Earth. Truly. I went to the allergy clinic as a 25-year-old, finally got the needle testing done, and the only thing I'm not allergic to is mold. My entire arm where they pin-pricked me was one raised bump. The city of Nashville is located in a bowl, surrounded by large hills. It's one of the worst places for allergies on Earth. I can never breathe here. For the past several months everywhere you look pollen is literally floating in the air. Occasionally I've even swallowed the pollen out of the air. As I'm jogging attempting to spit the pollen back out of my mouth, I sometimes think I'm going to die.
4. Waiting to cross streets. It's impossible not to look like a tool while you're waiting to cross the street and going for a jog. Do you keep moving your legs through a traffic light sequence? No, I can't do that. I feel like I'm auditioning for A Chorus Line. So instead I stop moving and just stand there. Which reinforces my desire not to be running. As soon as the light changes I have to start up again.
5. Even if you're really good at jogging, you're still just really good at jogging. Why do people brag about how far they can run? The only reason you can run long distances is because you do it all the time. It serves no actual purpose in life. It's not the Middle Ages. No one walks up to you at work and says, "This document has to be 11 miles from here in 58 minutes or the company is going bankrupt." Nope, they just put someone in a car and get it there in 20 minutes. It's a skill that has no useful purpose. Imagine if I decided I was going to juggle every day for two hours. I'd be awesome at juggling. But unless I wanted to pick up lonely lady clowns, it's not terribly helpful.
6. Running is like cross-word puzzles, I used to do them because I thought they would make me smarter. Then I heard that the only thing completing crossword puzzles did was make you better at doing crossword puzzles. It's the same with running. Your endurance just gets better for running. Even people who go for two-hour jogs aren't that good at, say, playing full-court basketball where you're required to run at different speeds and take breaks in between plays. It's a solitary skill that has no lasting benefit, like being awesome at horseshoes. Only you can't drink beer while you run. So even worse.
7. Runners are snobby. Whenever a regular runner sees you stop running, they look down their nose at you. "Oh, you're stopping already," their cutting eyes seem to say. Whenever I stop running in front of other runners, I always want to say, "Whew, polished off those fifty miles pretty easy today." Because running is a "sport" that plodding misanthropes embrace, people who are really competitive but pretend they aren't. That's why so many lawyers run.
Question: How many hours did you bill yesterday?
Questioner: Cool, knocked out 10.2 myself.
Question: How many miles did you run today?
Questioner: 3.1 here.
Me: I hate you.
8. I don't get a runner's high when I'm done. My body isn't suffused with endorphins that make me sky-high with the feeling of accomplishment. I've just got really sweaty socks and I can barely breathe. If I feel any relief it's because I don't have to dread running anymore for that day.
9. If people find out you run more than three miles at one time, they ask you whether you've ever run a marathon. Everyone does this. I have no idea why. If someone sees you playing basketball, they don't walk up and ask if you can dunk. Although, to be fair, dunking requires athletic ability. Running requires no real athletic ability, just a desire to keep moving no matter the consequences.
10. No one actually likes jogging. Look at the faces of people as they jog. I defy you to find someone who looks like they enjoy it. (I'll craft a small exception for men who have managed to get behind a really hot woman and are mesmerized by watching her from behind.) How has something that no one likes become so popular? I'll tell you, because people lie about liking jogging and no one calls them on it. Jogging is sado-masochism disguised as sport.
11. Oprah ran a marathon. So I don't doubt that if I committed myself to training for 20 hours a week, or whatever it is, I could run a marathon too. Otherwise I'm required to believe that Oprah is a better athlete than I am. But here's the deal, once Oprah ran a marathon didn't it strip away the majesty of the marathon-ing experience. It would be like if Jose Canseco's next book was One Hundred Years of Solitude. I'd just throw up my hands and quit writing.
I'm looking at my tennis shoes by the door right now. I don't want to put them on, I really don't. But I know sooner or later I'm going to, a latter-day Pickett's Charge into the heat of the day. And I'm going to hate every second of it. Like everyone other person who has ever run.
It's starting to get hot in Nashville. The other day, I was out on a Sunday morning. It was already 80 degrees downtown. The sun was baking off the pavement, shimmering on the reflected windows of the Kentucky Fried Chicken. A Lincoln Continental pulled past me, stopped, and rolled down the window. An old hand extended outside. As I jogged by an elderly black woman wearing a white hat and a white dress, on her way to church, addressed me.
"Good morning, Forrest," she cackled.
I hate it, I really do.