Every year about this time, I start thinking: maybe I should start running again. After all, cross-training is good for you, right? Plus my buddy John and I have a tradition of signing up for the Death Valley Marathon each year (I did a writeup on this race back in 2003, posted below as a surprise bonus for people who feel they deserve to be punished), so I ought to start training for it, right?
I’m not going to run.
This is why.
Last January, my training for the Death Valley Marathon went especially badly. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life (around 192 pounds), due to steroids and holiday overindulgence, not to mention some pretty half-hearted training. I was planning to do the marathon with John, but had no expectations of doing much running. I was a very solid back-of-the-pack bet.
So when John called me from the hospital — five days before the race — saying he was going to have to bail on the race, due to the fact that he had had a heart attack that day, I had three reactions:
- Relief that he was OK.
- Concern that since John had a heart attack, I was probably at risk, too – he and I are very similar in the way we train, eat, and live.
- Joy that I now had an ironclad excuse for not doing the race. Not as ironclad as John’s, but close enough.
I have not run since. Man, that sport could kill you.
I actually understand why runners run. They run for a lot of the same reasons cyclists ride: It’s a good workout. You can do it right out your front door. You get to be outside and see a little bit of the world. When you do it right, you get that endorphin rush and feel great.
Sadly, these reasons are not sufficient. Here is what is wrong with running:
- It pounds the crud out of you. As you bike and get in better shape, you hurt less and less. That’s because your muscles are getting stronger and you’re not slamming all your weight and force into your joints several times per second. This cannot be said of running. Runners spend all this time stretching and warming up and cooling down, but they all wind up hobbling around with screwed-up joints anyway. Basically, I’m willing to endure muscle soreness because I know that’s part of the process of building fitness. Joint soreness is just the path to more joint soreness.
- Lack of variety. When I get tired of road biking, I mountain bike. Or I get out the fixie. Or try cyclocross. With running, you get to do what to mix it up? Run really fast instead of at your normal pace? Run on trails instead of road? Maybe skip or hop? Or run backwards? When I bike, I never use an MP3 player, because there’s so much going on, my mind stays plenty busy. When I run, on the other hand, I need an MP3 player desperately. Because otherwise the tedium is Just. Too. Much. Here’s a thought: If an essential part of your exercise gear is a gadget that helps you keep your mind off that exercise, maybe it’s time to switch sports.
- Lack of cool gear. OK, I admit this is a throwaway point, but if you’re a gear geek like me, you know what I’m talking about. With biking, there’s new frames and components and clothes and helmets and measuring apparatus! With running, there’s shoes (oh yes, lots and lots of shoes) and shorts and … socks? Maybe special running underwear? Headbands?
- It injures you without giving you a cool scar, nor a story to tell. Both runners and cyclists get injured while doing their thing. That’s just a given. For cyclists, every injury has an accompanying story that can be treasured, tweaked, and told for decades to come. I admit that there have been times when, even as I writhed in pain, a little part of me was working on the description of how bad I hurt. Runners, on the other hand, get to talk about how they were jogging along when — spung! — their kneecaps fell off, due to overuse. Hey, if you’re going to suffer, you may as well have a story to tell. In short: when biking, you accept that something surprising and dangerous may happen to you while you’re biking. With running, you accept that you are injuring yourself because you’re running.
Call to Action
Runners, please: Quit running. Buy a bike. You’ll go faster. You’ll hurt less often. When you do hurt, you’ll have a nice little anecdote to share.
I’m glad I could clear this up for you.
Today’s weight: 159.8. OK, I’m done. Just going to try to keep it here for a few months, then drop to 150 for the race season; I’ll start on that in March.
Clarification of what "I’m Done" means: It just means I’ve hit my goal weight for the off-season. I’m not going to stop writing, I’m not going to stop training, I’m not going to stop dieting, I’m not going to stop going on massive burrito binges. I’m not even going to stop having the Fat Cyclist Weekly Weigh-in Sweepstakes. I’m just going to try to stabilize my weight for a few months before making the next big race season weight loss push, where I’ll try to get as close to 150 as I possibly can.