Issue #0, Part 1: Beer & Cigarettes

When I’m talking about running with a co-worker or recent acquaintance, they’ll often ask, “So have you always been a runner?”  At which point I laugh so hard I spit out my coffee.  Since today was a rest day (and because I currently have a six week old baby girl sleeping in my lap), I decided it was time to share my Running Origin Story. . .


Once upon a time, there was a young man who hated to run.  Hated it.  Oh, he had his fare share of outdoor adventures (he had nothing against hiking or tromping about), but was generally more inclined to curl up under a tree and reread “The Hobbit” for the 17th time.  He generally disliked group sports, partially because they were too structured and organized, but mostly because they generally involved running.  His only memories of youth soccer were of how much he hated running up and down the field, and middle-school basketball consisted of long periods of running down the court, only to get to the other end just as the ball was headed the other direction.  Baseball might have been a possibility, but the first time he actually hit the ball it stung his hands so badly he was scared of swinging ever again.  And no one who reads “The Hobbit” on a bi-annual basis even considers football an option, so that was that.

In 6th grade he discovered Role Playing Games (the old fashioned pen-and-paper kind — our hero played video-games, but never avidly), and so between Fantasy Novels, Magic: The Gathering, and various RPG’s, he was more than content to live a mostly cerebral existence  and leave any strenuous physical activity to simulation via the cast of a 10 sided die.  Oregon State law required only two semesters of Gym, and he managed to spread them out as far as possible by taking one his Freshman year and one his Senior year.  Gym wasn’t bad when it involved indoor hockey or dodge-ball or even flag-football, but all to often it involved running — basketball again, or even worse, the track and field unit (though the javelin did have a damage die in D&D, that made it sort of cool).  There was the dreaded twice-a-semester mile run, which our hero tried to avoid by “miscounting” how many loops of the track he had completed.  The motto shared between he and his friends was: “I’m not going to run unless something is chasing me.” (It was only years later that he realized the idiocy of this, as if you wait until something is chasing you to practice running, its going to be too late.)

Now a young man, our hero headed back East to a Liberal Arts College, where serious teams were mocked as un-intellectual, and the only time the college banded together for a sporting event was to get drunk and chant “Blood makes the grass grow — kill, kill!” while watching the rugby team get their ass-kicked. Oh, and the time he and his friends fired off the potato-cannon during a soft-ball match, but that was during summer orientation.  He did, in fact, join a sports team, but it was fencing, and it was more out of an anachronistic fascination with his Medieval Studies major than any sense of athleticism.  Another selling point of fencing, besides the swash-bucking element, was that you didn’t have to run, and our hero managed to avoid even the five minutes of warm-up laps around the gym that started practice.

And so the next four years passed in an idyllic collegiate haze, our hero darkening the door-way of the gymnasium only to pick up a saber (never to enter the weight room or mount a treadmill).  He did enjoy long walks (but more for the contemplative poetry of the act than any physical exertion) and whilst pursuing a degree in Medieval Studies also became a vegetarian, started drinking far too much coffee, and began hand-rolling cigarettes.  The year after college he spent in Iceland, which leant itself to long hours indoors with books and longer hours at a bar with beer or brennivin and not so much to moving around.  From Iceland, he and an intrepid band of friends migrated to Missoula, Montana, which ironically is a mecca of sorts for out-doorsy, action-adventure athletes.  These were not the people he spent his time with, however.  Missoula also has lots of great, cheap beer, and as our hero had never been into winter sports to begin with, all that beer piled on top of lots of pizza and hours at the pool-hall or on the couch watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twin Peaks marathons.

As we leave you at the end of this segment, true believers, our hero weights around 230 pounds, drinks quite a lot (not to drunkenness, but daily) and smokes about 2 packs of cigarettes a week.  Not much the image of a marathon athlete, is it?  Will he overcome his love of microbrews and American Spirit Menthols?  Tune in for the next exciting segment of our origin story.  ‘Nuff said!


About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
This entry was posted in Goals, How I Became A Runner, Musings, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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