Fresh off a six-mile run, I got an email that made me wince.
“If running is so good, why do you seem to be in so much pain while you’re doing it?” asked a neighbor who’d passed me in his car and waved merrily while I was staggering up the last hill, apparently complete with ugly face.
I replied, “You saw me on mile 6. I was positively euphoric on miles 2, 3 and 4.”
This was true. The first and last miles of any workout are often the hardest. Besides, the test of any experience is not how we feel while we’re doing it, but how we feel after it’s done, so whatever discomfort we experience during a run shouldn’t matter.
But that said, I still committed one of the seven deadly sins of running: looking to the world, or at least everyone who passed me that day, like running equals suffering. This is wrong on so many counts.
First, it makes the agony even worse. To indulge in full-body suffering, all the way up to our facial expressions, does nothing to generate the positive energy we need to power our bodies back home without a walking “break” that turns into actual walking.
Beyond that, whether we like it or not, we’re all ambassadors for the sport every time we run down the road in sight of the sedentary public. People tend to like people who smile; they tend to dislike people who frown. And one study said the feelings translate beyond inviduals, to whole groups.
The people who pass us don’t know or care if we’re on our first mile or our 10th. But if they see a runner looking like Rocky in the last round with Apollo (“What’s keeping him up, Phil, I don’t know!”), they’re not likely to think, “Gee, that looks like fun, I should give running a try.”
Instead, our gritted teeth and contorted expressions make them think Neil Armstrong was right when he said, “I believe the good Lord gave us a finite number of heartbeats, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to use mine up running up and down the street.”
Personally, I think everyone who can run should run, and those who can’t run ought to walk as fast as they can, as long as they can, every day. The world would be a nicer place if everyone was flooded with endorphins. So I don’t ever want to discourage anyone from running, even inadvertently, by a temporary pained look on my face.
But the non-running public already thinks we’re loons for galloping around public streets in shorts when it’s 32 degrees. It’s only more evidence for the commitment papers if we do this while grinning like jack o’ lanterns. So we can’t look too happy, either, unless we happen to look like the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.
Running calls for extremes of body and spirit, but temperance of facial expression. No matter how miserable the blisters, or how positive our negative splits, we must strive for a pleasantly neutral expression, one that asks, “Wouldn’t you like to be a runner, too?”
SALTIES! DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR EXPRESSION ON THE RUN? WHAT DO YOU TRY TO CONVEY WORDLESSLY TO PASSING MOTORISTS?