Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Elvis is alive!

Today, I saw Elvis. In and of itself, that's not such a rarity in Kansas City. With four casinos within spitting distance, apparently the odd sighting of the King is more dependent on the day of the week, as in Tuesdays are Skinny Elvis' day to grocery shop at Price Chopper in Parkville. He looks good, and, if I do say so, his inky black sideburns are spectacular.

I've seen some odd and amazing things, and none more than when I'm running. One cold autumn midday, about eight years ago, I ground to a halt from my run and, mouth agape, watched as the Barnum and Bailey Circus train clacked across the tracks in Royal Oak. I've seen Jupiter glow orange against the eternal night sky. I've been chased by billowing clouds of fireworks smoke, commandeering the streets of Huntington Woods. I've looked into the eyes of a doe, steadfast in the sidewalk, only to scamper into the adjacent woods. I've listened to the lions growl and the spider monkeys screech, the peacocks crowing in the darkness of the Detroit Zoo.

And then the treasures. A twenty dollar bill is the greatest monetary treasure I've found on a run, but the odd things are what I'll remember--the inner-most doll from the inside of a set of Russian nesting dolls, all chipped paint and rudimentary features; baseball cards and Nascar cards, some mottled with dirt, some protected in platic sleeves; bracelets and necklaces, earrings and charms; a man's credit card strewn carelessly on the side of the road. An ex-wife, perhaps? Who would have lost a credit card in the ditch? Once I found a pair of glasses, looked inside, and found an address, some four blocks from where they lay partially obscured under a shrub. Mom was thrilled that her daughter's second pair of glasses in the last six months had been found. Daughter hadn't even known she had lost them.

So that's what I miss the most about my long runs, that sense of discovery, of a hidden world that can only be observed in the quiet hours of running. I still dream about running, and I still classify myself as a runner, though with a realistic, self-depracating caveat.

If Elvis can browse the produce department, all gold-rimmed sunglasses and rhinestone-studded denim jacket, I can rise to become a runner once again.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Keeping it honest

I recently watched a very funny movie called "Run, Fat Boy, Run," and in this story, about an overweight Englishman trying to win back his girlfriend and redeem his life through training for and running a London marathon, there is a pertinent piece of training advice. It occurs in a dialogue between the hero of our story, Dennis Doyle, and his best friend Gordon:

Gordon: Go on then, run!

Dennis: Isn't there some kind of, like,... special technique?

Gordon: Well... yeah... you put one leg in front of the other, over and over again, really, really fast.

Good advice.

So today, Saturday, February 21st, I did just that, for better or worse, and found out that I'm somewhere on the lower end of the spectrum, fitness-wise, BUT not at the bottom. Let's consider the spectrum:

Low end: Bill Murray before he joins the army in "Stripes."

High end: Demi Moore in "G.I. Jane."

I can't do one-armed push ups, nor will I consider shaving my head, but I'm not quite at the point of having to dry out before I'm thirty, thirty having come and gone a decade and a half ago.
So, one leg in front of the other, indeed.

Hitting Rock Bottom

There was a time when I could run a 6:50 mile. I had chiseled legs, a washboard stomach, and arms with more definition than Mount Rushmore.

Now, I have "keep that hemline below the knee caps, thank you" legs, a washtub stomach, and arms that look like I'd rather drink a 64 oz slurpee in the visitor's center at Mount Rushmore than slog across the grueling boardwalk to the observation deck.

At 43, sniffing at 44, I can no longer take long vacations from my life as an active person. But it wasn't until I recently hit rock bottom that I decided to turn things around.

Although I'm not a candidate for the A&E channel show "Intervention," I, like so many other addicts, had to have a moment when I knew my behavior was the lowest of lows. No, I didn't have family and friends sit around me, reading letters of support and ultimatums. I didn't need that. I reached my low point all on my own.

I'm so ashamed.

My addiction, you see, is lethargy. Apathy. Complacency. Knuckle-headedness. The big LACK. Sure, "knuckle-headedness" seems like a stretch, but you try finding a word that begins with K. Anyhow, with a Master's degree in English, I can totally make this work, so here we go--"knuckle-headedness" because I know better. With heart disease running through my family, I am a knucklehead to think I can continue to eat Egg Mc Muffins and PopTarts while curling up for a 24-hour marathon of "America's Next Top Models." Sure, that's great TV, but it doesn't help my cholesterol level. Janice would be appalled.

And so it was that I found myself, last Friday night, huddled under a blanket on my couch, watching "Gilmore Girls" on TV and eating Cheeze Whiz straight out of the can. But that wasn't my epiphanic moment. An hour later I was in the local pizza shop where I ran into a colleague who reminded me that I had agreed to run one of the legs of the 44 mile "Brew-To-Brew" race on April 5 with the relay team she had gathered. "I thought we'd have 10 runners. It's more like six. No big deal--we'll take about eight miles each." When I visibly blanched, she went into protection mode--"Oh, but Parr can take 10 without breaking a sweat, and I'm sure I could do ten, and Scot and Chris, they'll be able to do six to eight, so that means you and Vic only have to run six miles each. You can do that. You're a runner." Yes, once upon a time and twenty-five pounds ago, yes, I was a runner...

Calm down, I told myself. Today is February 2oth. The race is April 5th. That means I have how many weeks to train?

The rocks down here are sharp, my friends. They're sharp, and they're covered with Cheeze Whiz and bacon, normally a great combination, especially with a side of sour cream, which, obviously, I would know something about. Nevertheless, rocks. Down here. In the pit of my neglect and wretchedness.

And so I have an uphill battle before me, which is good because I could use the hill workouts.

I realize I will be the weak link of this team, but since I could technically be the mother of a couple of the younger runners, I'm just going to push myself every day.

My first task--throw away the Cheeze Whiz. Doesn't matter. It's empty, anyhow...