I’m trying to get back to my fighting weight. Problem is, I haven’t been in a fight since before the Roller Skating Party in the Fifth Grade. So now I have to lose 150 pounds in time for beach season. It’s gonna be rough.
So I’ve started running. I have one goal when I’m running and only one goal: to stop. That way, when I go for a run, I run as fast as I can for as long as I can, so I can get back to sitting around the house doing nothing.
In a rush of testosterone and physical optimism, I decided to run a 5K road race. Nothing like an incredibly barbaric activity to shock my body (back) into shape. Plus I don’t mean to brag, but I ran a little in high school . . . Freshman Cross Country Champ. Bishop Gibbons High School. Big Ten Conference. That’s right — I know what I’m doing. I also had a secret weapon: at the end of the race, I’d start to yell “AISH!” with each breath. I’d really AISH it out. It was my Call of the Wild that would intimidate the competition and propel me to victory.
I showed up at the 5K road race ready to race. Just one problem: I’m not Cross Country Champ. I haven’t seen him for a long, long time. As I walked up to the starting line, the darnedest thing happened: Cross Country Champ appeared out of nowhere and started walking next to me. Before I know it, we’re in step with each other — and he got right into my head:
Cross Country Champ [looking around at the Competition]: What a joke. I’m gonna kick some A-$-$ (aka A-double dollar signs) today.
Me: Listen, kid. You haven’t been around for a while — more than 20 years. I know you were great – you were the best. But that was a long time ago. Let me handle this for now – we’re just gonna take it nice and easy.
Cross Country Champ: [Ignoring Me] Huh? [bouncing up and down like a caged animal] I don’t like that guy over there. Who does he think he is? We’re taking him down. [shouting] Hey – You. Yeah you. Gibbons is in the House! You hear that? [cheering] G-I-B-B-O-N-S that’s the way we spell success. Go Gibbons. Go! Go! Go Gibbons!
Me: [shaking my head and trying to lead the Cross Country Champ away from a sure physical confrontation]
Freshman Cross Country Champ: And who’s this guy over here? I think he’s giving me the eye . . . [to another runner] We’ll settle this on the course! If you can keep up . . . [back to Me] I’m sorry. Were you saying something?
Me: Forget it. Let’s just not die.
Freshman Cross Country Champ Guy leads me up to the front of the starting line and . . .
BANG! We’re off.
Cross Country Champ takes us out of the shoot like Tom Cruise running through the airport in . . . every one of his movies. We’re 30 steps into the race, and I’m already spent. In full-out panic mode, I start to “AISH” it out. It appears to have little impact on my present competition. After that, I pretty much blacked out. I vaguely remember telling some guy who passed me to “go get ‘em . . . for all of us” but, even now, I don’t know what that means. Or what it could mean . . .
After the race, having regained consciousness, I was leaning over a post-race table of snacks — bananas, muffins and PowerBars — and I had one final thought before being re-checked by the EMT’s: if I’m too weak to unwrap the PowerBar package, how am I ever going to get the power inside me?