Sometimes you feel like running

Most days when I drive home, I pass dozens of people out running along the waterfront. While many of them run with the comfortable gait of a natural athlete, far too many of them look as unnatural as I do in a suit and just as uncomfortable. Sometimes I really want to stop and offer them a ride but I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Since Jim Fixx wrote “The Complete Book of Running” in the seventies, there has been a segment of the population who believed that they had to run to look fit. Distance running went from an oddity to a fad to a requirement in this country all the span of a generation and that’s just plain wrong.

I have been distance running since I was a kid because, like Forrest Gump, I just felt like running. I was a funny looking weird kid and running provided the added benefit of escaping from bullies but I mostly ran because I just liked it. I’m sticking with that story.

I’m not built like your stereotypical runner; I’m not a tall long legged skinny guy. I was born with the body of a troll and the cardiovascular system of a gazelle; that is to say I’m built like a short guy who is always wearing a life jacket.

I’ve logged thousands of miles over the years and raced every distance from a mile to a marathon, but I never looked thin or sleek … I always looked like a short squatty guy who could run a long way. For me being a runner is less about a drive for fitness than it is being born with better than average cardiovascular efficiency and below average interpersonal skills, but it sounds better to say I just felt like running.

My message today is that, contrary to what society would have us believe, running is not for everyone. It turns out that being a runner, not unlike being a pastry chef or a brain surgeon, requires a certain amount of aptitude. If you don’t believe me, just look at the people you see running down the road; the guy who is staggering like he was just fatally shot should probably take up weight lifting or synchronized swimming to get his exercise because running might not be his cup of tea.

I have terrible hand-eye coordination, and I cannot shoot worth a darn. I’ve got to believe that primal tribes used guys like me to run down roaming herds to keep an eye on them until the real hunters showed up. If I had to shoot my dinner with a bow I’d surely starve; I’d be in more danger from the bow than my target would be from the arrow ... but I can run.

Take it from me; the whole running to be fit thing is a myth. If you have an aptitude for running, putting in several miles a day will, at best, make you a better runner. If you don’t have an aptitude for running it will probably just make your feet, ankles knees and hips hurt, but you will look the same. Oh, and you’ll smell a bit gamey for a while as well.

Running will not make you taller, better looking or improve your racquetball game … I can get testimony to verify that. In fact, running can be a lonely and painful business that involves blistered feet, lost toenails and the occasional bloody nipple. Again, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds.

This is not meant to discourage anyone from getting fit; if you’ve packed on a few pounds by all means get off your ever widening backside and get physical … but that doesn’t have to mean you have to train for a local 5K. Just put down the Big Mac and take a swim, play golf or do any of a million things I can’t do without hurting myself.

It’s been said that running is life, everything else is just waiting; you can bet that the guy who said that could not hit a nine iron, make the throw from third to first or hammer a nail without hurting himself. True runners are simple creatures like Forrest Gump and me … we run because we feel like until we are done. To quote Forrest, “It happens…”

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at


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