I run for many reasons: it tones my legs and burns calories, keeps my cholesterol and triglycerides low, has decreased my resting heart rate to sixty-six, and gives me more energy and stamina. My running for fitness sets a positive example to my kids and staves off a sedentary lifestyle. But the main reason I run is to annoy my mother.
Not really. But I must admit I get a certain perverse pleasure in seeing her response to my running. Nearly every time we visit and I go out for a run, she makes some comment about how I’m too old to pound my body in such a way (I’m fifty-five). Citing some article that she’s probably gleaned from some AARP publication, she points out that walking is just as effective in burning fat and nearly as good for the cardiovascular system as running; as lagniappe, she’ll add that it isn’t nearly as stressful to the feet and joints.
Okay. But I like running. I began my steady exercise streak, which has now lasted over twenty years, with walking, figuring I wouldn’t dread it as much as running, I’d therefore do it more often, and, well, it was better than nothing. Within a few weeks, though, it literally became more difficult to walk fast than to run slowly. My legs needed to break out into a trot. So I run.
According to Mom, too, there are few weather conditions conducive to running. If I run at mid-day in summer, it’s too hot and I’ll get heatstroke. If it’s winter, I’ll slip on the ice or freeze my lungs or catch a life-threatening cold. If I run in the rain, I’m simply crazy or obsessed, though no physical calamity may befall me. So of course I make a point of running in all these conditions, just for the pleasure of seeing her shake her head in dismay.
I’m sure Mom’s displeasure added to the enjoyment I felt on one of my favorite runs–a run at her house in winter, with snow falling in huge clumps, twilight falling with it, both descending on my shoulders and making me weightless, my feet dissolving into the white powder of the road. Running back up her lane in near darkness, I smiled to think how she was probably disapproving of my being out in this. Not only would my lungs freeze, but I would probably slip on the ice and because of the darkness, no one would find me until morning, by which time I would have developed a life-threatening cold. Why not then just go for the full effect? Confirm to her that I was mad, demented by the endorphins coursing through my veins? Rounding up her driveway, I could see her sitting safely at her dining room table, encased in warmth and light, playing dominos with my kids. So I ran directly up to the window, pounded my fists on the glass, and yelled, “Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” My children’s and my husband’s faces crinkled with laughter, catching the allusion to our favorite Christmas video and sharing, I’d like to think, a bit of the pleasure of my run and of the perverse pleasure I was getting in annoying Mom. Mom just frowned and shook her head.