Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 15, 2012

While daughter tries running, I am reluctant

By Garret Leiva

---- — You run for two reasons: away from a vicious animal or towards a windswept winning lottery ticket. Run for your life — just get those knees up.

There are people who derive euphoric pleasure from a pounding heart, aching lungs and sweat-soaked underwear. They run down the street — not from the police — but of their own free will. Inconceivable as it sounds, they just like to run.

Personally, I get slightly winded making a beer run. You'd have to pay me 10K to run a 5K race.

While the running movement has swept up friends, family and neighbors, I've yet to exercise that option. I'm content to briskly walk after my ever-fleeting youth. It's not an aversion to running as much as a fear of hyperventilating in public while wearing Lycra pants.

However, the world of gritty energy bars and chafe-free jogging shorts has caught up to me. My daughter is a runner.

For the last month our 10-year-old daughter has stayed after school for punishment. She wasn't busted for cheating on a test or pulling the fire alarm. She joined the school cross-country team.

Our child harbors no dreams of making the 2024 U.S. Olympic track team. She doesn't race against the clock or her fellow fifth-grade competitors. Her motive is purely to get out of school latchkey.

It seems she would rather risk pulling a hamstring than work on math homework. I can't fault that logic.

My wife, herself a runner, insists that the sport is a great stress relief. I want to believe her but she uses running and relief in the same sentence. The only time I've felt relief about running is when someone told me I could stop.

I admit that running is a superb aerobic exercise for your heart and lungs. It also improves fitness, stamina and even bone density. All that sounds great — except for that whole running thing.

Perhaps all those gym class laps during my formative years set a bad tone. It was hard to hit your grade school stride wearing low-top tennis shoes and high-rise white tube socks. I was no Bruce Jenner — even with the matching haircut.

I did run track one year in high school. Thankfully my races were few and far between — the latter was also the exact distance between myself and fellow racers. I often wished Zola Budd would trip me out of my misery as I plodded around the cinder track.

After watching several races it still pains me to see some people run. The look on their faces — mouth agape, eyes glazed, brows dripping with sweat — brought back bad algebra memories. If this is a runner's high I'd consider a "Just Say No" campaign.

The fall cross-country season is down to one meet. Our daughter says she can't wait for basketball season. I can't fault that logic.

My wife and daughter will continue to run our neighborhood trail. I'd join them but I'm too exhausted. Unfortunately that wearing-Lycra-in-public dream keeps running through my mind.