BABY, WE WEREN’T BORN TO RUN.

Nice shorts.

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A regular participant in aerial silks, yoga, and once upon a time the gym, I hope I’ve demonstrated by now my interest in being a healthy person.

It helps that that I was raised by a former aerobics instructor. One who was a mindful eater. Like many families, mine shows love with food, such as a sensible lo-cal protein shake.

We’ve all dabbled in vegetarianism at one point or another, Mom, Dad, and I. I spend more time in Whole Foods than is really necessary/attractive, and I’ve never met an elliptical machine I didn’t like. I was on the cross-country team in high school, I’ve done my fair share of 5K’s, and I’ve boot-camped my way around Austin.

All this, and still, I hate running.

***

“I’ve begun running again,” I went around last week telling anybody who would listen.

“Oh?” they would say. “That’s nice. In a gym?”

“No — OUTSIDE,” I would say dramatically.

“Oh.  In June?”

“Yes,” I explained, “I just run through the shady parts.”

Then they would politely nod, envisioning me zig-zagging wildly from tree shade to tree shade in an otherwise calm neighborhood, while residents peeked out their windows and wondered who that lunatic was outside.

A native Texan, you’d think I’d have learned by now that running in a cooler part of the day (or, cooler part of the year) is advisable to “running through the shady parts.” That strategy is unpredictable and awkward, while joining the virtuous masses at 6am guarantees not only me avoiding heat stroke, but also the ability to brag all day that I went running at 6am.

I just can’t seem to get it together though until 4 or 5, pm, when the furnace that is the Texas sun attempts to bake living creatures alive. This was the case last Thursday, when I went jogging through a hilly neighborhood near my house.

I didn’t see another living soul out, besides those cruising by in motor vehicles, happily blasting their AC and listening to Afternoon Edition. Now, perhaps it was my judgment, impaired by the heat, or perhaps it was all those hills, causing me to sweat literally into my eyeballs, or perhaps it was my commitment to “running through the shade.” But either way, I decided it would be a good idea to loop back to my starting point by running through a condo complex. You know, where people live.

I spotted a sprinkler near the condo exit, and with my last gasp of motivation, I began to sprint toward it.

I sprinted past the pool.

I sprinted past the “First month’s rent FREE!” sign.

I sprinted to the mailboxes, tucked away in an open, dark room, the kind where you have to bring your key to unlock your private little box. I sped toward the entrance, full steam ahead.

That’s when I heard the scream.

“OH MY GOD!” an elderly woman cried, clutching her mail.

“S-SORRY! Sorry!” I stammered in reply. I had literally almost bowled her over/given her a heart attack as she was walking out of the mailbox room, my shoulder grazing her L.L. Bean catalogs.

“Oh … oh my word,” she breathed. I slowed my sprint to a jog, and turned around in time to see her put her hand to her chest. She was still alive. But barely.

Which brings me to my main question. Why do we run? Why do we knowingly weaken our joints, get dehydrated, and almost kill ourselves (and others) in the name of fitness? Does it feel more “real” than other forms of exercise? What is the appeal here?

I remember that sheepish feeling each time I stepped off an elliptical trainer at the gym. Whatever the opposite of a badass is, that is how I felt on the elliptical. It wasn’t long before I turned to running instead, just to prove I was up to the task. A contender. An athlete!

An athlete, apparently, who almost kills old people.