I’m not sure why, but during my wife’s pregnancy, I gained an astonishing eighteen pounds. I felt pregnant. I feel pregnant today, at this moment. Whatever crazy train my wife’s hormones put me on has left a wide swatch of destruction. It’s like the movie the Mask, but with Holiday Pants instead. Imagine, now, what if The Mask was about a pair of pants that magically transformed the wearer into a circus level stunt gurgitator, and then you’d get the idea. Holiday Pants are a trigger, a self-fulfilling prophesy. I filled those pants, and now I have to run in them.
- It was during this time, during the often grey and frozen, snowy months of January, February and March in SW Pennsylvania that I actually convinced myself to run a marathon while eating a half-dozen strips of bacon. Not as good as I’d hoped, nope.
- Despite running over three hundred miles in January, I gained five pounds. I ate lots of junk. And candy. And started drinking lots of coffee.
- In February, dessert became an obligation I owed to myself for all the years I practiced safe driving skills. And for not hating on playas, but hatin’ the game. After several years following that creed, eating big-time items like Large Marge platters of home-made gorditas makes sense. Lots of sauce and cheese, yes. Come back food, just like those pants, they came back and stayed. But Nutella tamales are ridiculous and unnecessary. I should have just injected those into my inner thighs. When I walk fast at work my legs heat up and smell like filberts, corn flour and cocoa.
- I took creatine for a week after runs to see what would happen. Seven pounds. Whereas the boxer shorts I bought last year used to wear sort of loose, now they look like plaid biker shorts. I put the creatine away. It is honestly affecting my running form to have large, watery legs. Somebody yelled at me today during a race, “Work those arms, come on I want to see it”. Yeah, watch me make chocolate pudding and play Diablo III for six hours straight, because creatine. Horrible.
So I add a sort of jaunty montage around my fat ass, something to gauge the size of it. Perspective. I’ve run one marathon, one half marathon and three short races this year. I placed in my age division in all but the marathon because the marathon didn’t have any rewards and I was slow anyways from eating bacon and climbing mountains. But I’ve run these same distances faster when I was 18 pounds lighter.
Today I debated between entering the Mt. Summit Challenge today in either my age group of 40-44 or in the “Cruiser” class of 175-190 pound, but I figured younger kids of my size would certainly beat me. So, I went in my age group and didn’t even bother waiting to see if I medaled. There was a 3.5 mile downhill run ahead of me and I took it at a blistering 5:47 min/mile pace, which was easy to do considering the steep grade of the descent. I can still run, but it seems to take me an extra ten minutes to get fully warmed up.
I get tired from dealing with the baby, but it’s not that hard to deal with the baby: change, feed, burp, change, bed. The baby’s easy. It’s just the lack of sleep. Hooks that just drag the strength from my arms and legs dragged across that bed. The elusive partner of a good training program is a good rest and recovery routine, but if you add a new baby into your home -your family reality- it is much more than a mechanical adjustment you’re looking at. It’s more than assembling a few pieces of tiny furniture and buying diapers and so on. Babies are profound responsibilities. I think more about my newborn than running. Running is solitary, self-organizing discipline and can make one sort of hyper focused. The activity has a gravitas akin to something spiritually necessary. It fulfills me the more I am able to empty my energies into it, a kind of religious exercise. Ecstasy through agony. One compliments the other. If I run well, I give my kids something to get excited about, something to look forward to achieving. A good run is no less important than a good race. No one goes and looks at the medals. My wife or older son will ask, “Did you have a good run?” It makes sense to want to see someone happy, and they ask me that because I almost always have good runs. Sometimes I have great runs. Bad runs are just tools to build better runs.
But a child offers me the opportunity to explore an entire new world, a new perspective and all that good stuff I think about when I see his fat little face. I want his life to be better than mine and all that jazz. Today I got him to smile, to giggle. He smiled and grinned and laughed for the first time today. When I was running down the mountain today I didn’t care about the rewards or medals or kudos and hoopla. The view of the sloping, rolled green mountainsides in the gentle drizzle was amazing; I was totally in the moment. I got back to my car and thought, I am hoping to get home and see my baby smile, to get a chance to have a half hour of contentment to share with this wide-eyed and curious soul fresh on the planet. But, while I ran I was just in the moment. Having that great happiness, what could be called a burden of fatherhood, was what allowed me to enjoy the run even more, just as speed work may compliment long runs and vice versa. Balance is extremely important. When I’m on the starting line, and I start my stopwatch when the official says GO, I am thinking of nothing other than running. On the other side of the beep, at the finish line, I check my stopwatch and I’m done. I am free to move about the mind again, and I am thinking about the baby nowadays. I got to it. I needed to get home to see that little face, to witness the amazing glimmers of understanding in my baby’s face. The road makes me a runner like the smile on my baby’s face makes me a dad. I am looking for the catalyst that tells me who I am. The road showed me what I thought I could do, but my spirit showed me how to thank the road. The smile, it is showing me how to thank my baby for being a dad.
I was getting large with my wife for a few months, but I’m staying large while I take these odd hours with the new baby. Lack of sleep makes me put on weight. The bags under my eyes, the spare tire, those are signs of me journeying into fatherhood, so I will be running heavy during the Pittsburgh Marathon next week.
But there are people running heavy with lots of sorrow. I am lucky to have loved ones to whom I may run. I feel like I am carrying around pieces of people I love, like deep satchels full of starving lizards. Actually, it’s not like running around with a sense of being ensconced within the warm relations of my immediate family reminding me of a satchel of starving lizards, but for the purpose of this article, I needed a strong visual that would give someone the sense of immediate action. But the real gravity of relationships are comprised of unseen forces that play on the people involve, twisting and shaping them. Moving them closer or away from one another, providing memories that hold clues to deeper understanding. Sometimes a detail from a memory unlocks a secret or a mystery years later. A run can really never do that. I could check my training logs and trace the rise and fall of problems, make corrections, but the vagaries of the heart are innumerable and fleeting, unable to be shod and run down known paths. There is no personal best for my life removed, because in sharing it I feel I am doing my best. I run heavy within this relationship so I can draw my family close with my shear gravitational force. And I like to run, but running with a flappy belly sucks. I wish I had made a good point, but I’m starting to think it doesn’t really matter. If you had kids you’d know what I meant.