I’m a runner. I’m not kidding.

by Paige Parker

One November midnight, I stepped into a Portland bar and asked:

“I’m feeling sick to my stomach, but I’d like to keep drinking. What do you recommend?”

And on another day – January; blazing daylight; bad breakup – I leaned hard on a bakery counter and inquired:

“What is the biggest piece of cake I can have for $4?”

Followed by:

“What if I gave you $5?”

So I startled myself, you see, a few weeks ago when I wandered in a Eugene running store with this question:

“What kind of clothing do I need to buy to keep running in the rain?”

“Did you just move to Oregon?” the sales woman asked.

“No, I’ve lived here 13 years,” I said. “I just started running in May.”

“Are you racing?”

“No. Actually, when I run, I think, ‘This isn’t a race.’”

She gave me a look like I’d just let out a fartlek.

“I’d like to keep running in the rain,” I said, again.

“You’re going to get wet,” she said.

“I don’t want to get wet,” I said.

“We all get wet,” she said, and despite myself I puffed up a bit at the notion that she and I – two runners – together made a “we.”

“Just take off your clothes right away when you come inside,” she said.

“What do you have that will keep my feet dry?”

“Your feet are going to get really wet,” she said.

“So I probably need a raincoat, then?” I asked.

“A raincoat will make you hot,” she said. “And then you’ll be hot and wet.”

I stifled a giggle.

“You don’t want to be hot and wet,” she said.

“Of course not,” I said. “Who does?”

“Lots of people stop training in Oregon in December and January,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say I’m training,” I said. “This is not a race.”

“They just take those months off. Do some yoga,” she said.

“If I stop running in December and January, I will never start again,” I said.

She offered me a hat, to keep the rain out of my eyes. I said I’d think it over. I joined the Y, instead. Running has gone from being something I would only do during a volcano eruption or a war to being something I feel I must do at least three or four times a week just to keep myself from ending up a middle-aged woman sweating my butt off in a creaking folding chair in the front row of a rage management seminar.

It’s not pretty, my running. Have you ever seen a grasshopper riding bareback on a banana slug? My chest flares. My face turns the color of cinnamon candy. I begin most runs thinking, “I cannot fucking believe I am doing this,” and end most of them thinking, “I cannot fucking believe I just did that.” In between I might enjoy 30 to 40 minutes of not thinking at all.

Forty minutes of not thinking at all times four equals 160 minutes a week of not thinking at all.

I get why people do this, now.