There's a scene from "Back to the Future III" - shot in the Red Hills area near Jamestown - where Doc Brown is lamenting his sorrows in a saloon over his lost love, Clara. In an unguarded state of mind for lack of sleep, Doc admits to a crusty trio of cowboys from 1885 about being from the future. When one skeptical bar patrons asks Brown what people do for fun in the future, Brown confidently replies: "We run." Laughter bursts out at the table as actor Pat Buttram chortles, "Run for fun? What the hell kind of fun is that?"
That line often comes to mind as I lace up my running shoes and insert my iPhone earphone and flip through my running tunes.
I try to run three times a week, 20 to 30 minutes at a time. I don't do treadmills - I nearly fall off them and go nowhere - so I run outdoors because I like to experience the world as I run.
Occasionally I get the crazy idea to run from town to town, a crazy distance of like 11 miles. Only once, so far, have I braved a half marathon (13.2 miles) but I finished in a respectable one hour and 56 minutes.
I know there are a lot of you who don't get it. You think we - runners - are nuts. That's okay. We think you - non-runners - are just all nutty for not even trying.
Why are you crazy? There's just too much to lose.
For starters, I honestly can't remember the last time I was sick. Am I saying that running has something to do with me rarely getting sick? That's exactly what I'm saying.
Since I started running 13 years ago, I've noticed others around me catching colds or the flu bug but I seem to dodge the bullet. Last week the combined offices of the Ceres Courier and Turlock Journal was filled with a staff of coughing and sneezing and germ spewing co-workers. I made it through unscathed. But please don't interpret this as bragging; it's merely an observation. Note that I did not say I never get sick. Nor did I say running is easy for me. Running is work, but can be a fun work.
Upon further research, I've read up on medical evidence that indicates that running raises good cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of blood clots and boosts the immune system by creating a higher concentration of white blood cells that attack disease.
I have a theory based on what I call the "Tin Man phenomenon." Buddy Ebsen who was cast as the first tin man in "Wizard of Oz," grew seriously ill after the movie crew used a silver paint to coat his skin. Later we learned that any coating prevents the human skin from "breathing" and a body is unable to cast of toxins. So it stands to reason that sweating is good because it eliminates toxins and impurities through pores. Everyone sweats but it stands to reason that a good sweat during a run or any aerobic exercise for that matter will allow you to sweat out even more toxins and impurities for health sake. Obviously if anyone has heart issues he or she should consult a physician about any vigorous activity.
Running, I've also found, relieves stress and helps with depression. The mild depression that used to come with cold and dark winter days doesn't faze me anymore. I embrace it and I don't allow cold or wet weather to stop me from running. Twice last week as others were standing underneath umbrellas and the awning of a San Francisco hospital, I ran into the rain wearing T shirt and shorts for a 20-minute run. At first I resisted, thinking it was a purely nutty thing to do. I came back drenched but the feel of rain in the face was one of those "I'm glad I'm alive" moments in life.
I get it that non-runner types don't get it. That was made obvious when my pastor was running one day past a man who yelled at him, "You're still gonna die!" Thanks for the news flash but it's not death we're trying to beat. We're enjoying being healthy and in some sick sort of way we enjoy pushing our bodies to do things we naturally resist doing.
Running is often more of a mental battle than a physical one. There are days when I don't feel like running but the mean drill sergeant of my conscience has a conversation with me that goes something like this: "You WILL run, you hear me MAGGOT? I could care less that it's 32 degrees outside and it's winter. Yo' mamma. I don't FLIPPING care! Get your running clothes on, and your lazy butt out that door!!! YOU HEAR ME??? I can't HEAR you!!!! You wanna look like a lumpy sack of potatoes like those couch potato Americans? Want your arteries as coagulated as yesterday's French fries? Want Viagra to be in your future? GET OUT THERE & RUN MAGGOT!!!"
He simply won't let me rest. I do what he tells me and as I near the end, drill sergeant tells me to run another block or do another 5 to 10. I really hate him at times.
But I realize he is a mean S.O.B. for a reason. The stakes are too high. I realize the sergeant really does care about my well-being and he knows that no excuse works. What he asks of me is truly a small price to pay for all the benefits I receive. I especially enjoy seeing my doctor, Dr. Kerry Evnin, smile when he tells me that my blood pressure of 102/58 is typical of one who runs.
Most anyone can run. There is no need to join a gym. Turlock has nice canal banks and neighborhoods to run in. All you need is a pair of running shoes and the great outdoors. Expect things to be tougher in the beginning but getting easier with time. Sure, you'll give up time that could be spent in front of a TV but keep in mind it's a whole lot fun doing that than ripping your nose up with Kleenex every time a cold comes your way.
If I've inspired you I would be honored if you let me know how it goes. NOW GET OUT THERE AND RUN, MAGGOTS!!!
Jeff Benziger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.