Back On the Rock

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blood In the Water

There’s a little game I play when I run. I’m the only player, the only one who knows the rules. It’s a ridiculous game and when I’m not running it makes no sense to me. It’s called Blood in the Water.

I always go with a planned run, but secretly I’m looking out for competition, for targets. And as soon as I spy one, I make my move:

Blood in the water
Ready to attack
Take down that runner
Show him my back

I am by nature a relatively calm, non-violent person. But there is something about the sight of a runner my pace – a minute or so faster or slower per mile – that brings out an aggressive streak in me. An urge to chase him, pass him, and leave him choking on my dust. A fire that makes me want to yell “Move, swine” as I go by, though usually I opt for the more polite “Excuse me.”

It’s a true case of duppy knowing who to frighten. I know better than to test the really fast runners. Like the typical schoolyard bully, I don’t pick on people who can beat me up. And the really slow runners don’t count. The game is just about finding my peers, running them down and killing them. Metaphorically, of course.

It’s my game, but I suspect some of you play too. You know who you are. You’re the ones who block me or speed up when I try to pass. The ones whose footsteps I hear creeping up on me. So just so we’re all on the same page, I think it’s time to share the rules:

The game is only on when I am strong. (It is my game, after all!) When I am sick or slow or tired or injured, your passing me doesn’t count. I’ll pout and roll my eyes at you like my niece used to when she would declare, as only four year olds can, “I’m not playing with you.”

But when I am up and running. Well, then it’s on.

When I pass you, I will mock you. Add you to the list of scalps on my belt. Like the Tourist, the Sprinter, the One Lap Hot Girl.

If I pass you – stay passed. Do not run after me. I will take this as a challenge. I will push the pace till your legs or your lungs give out. Or till mine do. I really don’t care which.

If I can’t outrun you, I will outlast you. Run until your quick pace makes you quit. Smirk at you as I run by when you slow down to walk – just to prove to you that the race isn’t always for the swift. If I can’t match your speed or your distance, I will hate you. Dream about you. Think about you while I do lunges and squats. Train harder till I see you again, then try to make you pay. (Listen up, Old Man, I’m talking about you. And 7-Minute Hottie, get ready. I’m back down to 9’s and I’m gunning for you.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am fully aware of the extent of my delusion. I am a relatively slow runner who logs relatively few miles. My preys are the weak and the slow. Not good. But it’s my game. The parameters are set by the limitations of my biology.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know running is supposed to be an individual sport. I’m supposed to focus on my own race. Beating my PR is supposed to be my only motivation. Mm hmm. Whatever.

I know I don’t know who you are. Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie. Whether, when I see you, you’ve been running for a minute or an hour. Whether you’re doing sprints or a recovery run. I don’t care. I like the thrill of the chase and I like the taste of the kill. I like listening out for your ragged breathing, your erratic footfalls as you lose form. I am not proud of this, but it’s the truth.

Who cares if the real runners (and the rest of the world) look at us and see some middle aged people trotting along? Doesn’t affect the game. I don’t even care that you don’t know you’re playing. You might just be out having a fun run. How could you possibly know that for the seconds that pass while we’re neck and neck, you’re Hendrik Ramaala and we’re in the last 800 metres of the New York Marathon. I am, of course, Paul Tergat and secretly I hope that, like Tergat, I will sprint you into submission.

Delusional, I know. But hey, it’s just a game. It makes the miles more fun.


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