Yea, But It's Not Running

Nick LiljaCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2008

Ever watch those Nordic looking guys lift a grand piano over their heads or the guy with no vowels in his last name pull an airplane 100 feet? What about the Harlem Globetrotters, ever see them perform?

It’s spectacular. To think that any human is capable of such feats is befuddling. It’s difficult and requires body control and massive amounts of strength.

But it’s not running.

If you have ever muttered that statement, welcome to the club. Don’t forget your name tag at the door, there is free Gatorade on tap and the VO2 machine is in the back. Sean Hunter just blew a new record, good luck.

We too, walk through the world in New Balance and look through Asics shaded glasses. Jaded by society’s obsession with the simple and easy. Running is the pinnacle of all athletic competition. It is the base of the athletic evolutionary ladder. It’s the T, A, C, G in the DNA of every sport. But America likes flashy and flashy is easy—just ask any stripper.

There are a few requirements for your membership, though. You must maintain at least a seven minute mile at all times, you must have at least one pair of Nike warm-ups and you have to finish every conversation about sports with, “yea, it’s hard, but it’s not running.”

Running is hard. Running takes strength. Running takes guts. Hicham El Guerrouj, he’s the man. Maria Runyan, she is a champion. Think of the level of perfection, the beauty, the aura of a runner cruising around a track during a 5,000 meter race. It’s breathtaking because they make the most difficult task look effortless.

Think about all of the sports. What is harder than running?

Basketball? They shoot a ball at a hoop, dribble around, nothing too difficult. Gymnastics? Anyone can do a full-in-back-out or two. My buddy did three just the other day after a few Red Bull’s. Rowing? Don’t even talk. You don’t even have to stand up! Rowers get to sit comfortably in a boat and lean forward and backward.

People do that playing World of Warcraft.  

Soccer is the ultimate imposter. The players run around chasing a spotted ball only to kick it into a goal 30 times the balls’ size. That’s not hard. A five-year old just did that in Appleton, Wisconsin. Twice.

Even the Army ROTC guys know running is hard. They wake up before dawn, put on their sweats and head out the door. On any given day ask them what they would rather be doing. The reply – anything but running.

Anything? Push-ups, somersaults in a forest, pumping gas in January, moving a neighbor’s furniture, taste testing Russian cigarettes, you name it, and they’d rather be doing it.

Running is hard. Physically and mentally. Has there ever been a runner that wasn’t completely insane? Be honest. Prefontane was a spectacular runner. Crazy. Ran from Eugene, Oregon to Newport, Oregon – for fun! Even marathoners looked at him funny. Forrest Gump thinks that’s stupid.

The apparel companies know running is for the mentally unstable and want to ease the pain. Companies make iPod sunglasses, shoes that feel like sponges and shirts that, even after 26 miles, still won’t chafe.

Because after running 26 miles, the first thing runners worry about is an unsightly rash and slight discomfort under the arms. Sure, runners smell, ache and hit the wall five miles ago but, hey, they are comfy!

When was the last time during an afternoon practice in August you heard guys in football pads say, “Man, this is so comfortable, I could wear this cup all day.”

Was there ever a wrestler in Gill that said, “Wearing this one-piece is so relaxing and check it out, I look huge!”

No women’s basketball player, with her ankle taped up, and jersey on looked down the bench and said, “I think I’m good here, I might spend the night.”

Nope. There is no way. It just doesn’t happen. They aren’t crazy enough to push themselves past a point of scientific uncertainty. Runners have, do and will continue to until the end of time. Chances are they will get there first, too.