Archive for the 'Runners are Liars' Category

Boil that Frog 13Apr07

Caution: Frog Boil Zone

It’s ever so subtle; unnoticed until it’s too late. A relatively easy training run with a friend begins normally but goes awry. Halfway into the run, the pace slowly yet steadily quickens. The acceleration continues until the nearly anaerobic finish. You never intended to run this fast.

You have been frog boiled.

If you want to boil an actual frog, you’ve got to do it slowly. Turn up the heat too quickly and the frog jumps out of the pot. Turn up the heat gradually, and the frog doesn’t notice its impending doom. New Englanders know this as the Lobster Boil. Business “Change Consultants” use this analogy to rationalize everything from downsizing to well, downsizing.

Ah, but frog boiling is a myth. Frogs it seems are pretty smart, and quite adept at jumping out of all sorts of pots regardless of water temperature. They’ll hop right out at the slightest hint of trouble. The only way to boil a frog slowly is to physically trap it. But the runner with a competitive bent can be easily seduced into a frog boil. This happens all the time, even though runners can readily escape their peril. Could it be that frogs are smarter than humans (or at least running humans)?

The frog boil is also something of an art. On one hand it can be a genuine coaching tactic worthy of Mr. Miyagi. On the other hand, it can be a ruthlessly calculated exhibition of dominance; much like the colorfully audacious plumage displays seen on Animal Planet.

The best frog boils involve deception. The boiler insists that the pace will be “easy” or run at “recovery pace.” Amazingly, the callow boilee believes these white lies again and again. Not even frogs would repeatedly jump into a boiling pot.

But what of the overtly proclaimed boil? Here, runners voluntarily submit themselves to the sadism of inexorable acceleration. Like Sydney Carton (but without the poetic melodrama), they go willingly to their doom. Imagine announcing to the frog that you are about to kill it ever so slowly. Now imagine the frog being okay with it.

So it seems that runners are pain addicts. Why? Immanual Kant’s transcendental idealism tells us that some things are simply beyond the scope of rational cognition. We can’t know what we can’t know. Serial boiling is like this. Let me know when you figure out why runners routinely choose misery. Then you will have uncovered part of the mystery of the human condition.

Good luck.
White Space

All runners are liars 22Nov06

Back when I began to experiment with pushing my running boundaries, I joined two runners for a 14 mile, Wednesday run. Though inexperienced with the ritual of the mid-week long run, I was stoked. The course was new to me, and midway through, we came upon a pretty decent hill. I blanched. My friend, noticing my anxiety, simply stated, “Don’t worry, we don’t go all the way to the top.”

About 50 feet before the top of the hill, we turned right.

So I thought… “Did this guy purposefully lie to me? I mean, we’re basically at the top of the hill.” Maybe he was trying to train me, you know, trying to be my own personal Burgess Meredith.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been taken aback. We hadn’t actually reached the top. In a Bill Clintonesque sense, he was technically accurate, just not very helpful. Strike that. Even the prototypically moronic WWE referee could see that it was a lie. So you’ll understand my skepticism when my friend then said, “It’s pretty flat from here.”

“Pretty flat” apparently means “consistently rolling terrain for 5 miles.” I now call this “a complete distortion of the facts.” Incidentally, the run ended up being 12.5, rather than 14 miles. We’ll call that an honest mistake.

The definition does, in fact, prove my point.

Consider another experience I’ve had with runner dishonesty.

My running partner, a more accomplished runner than I, promised a slow, causal run (The first sign of trouble). As we ran, I noticed a gradual yet inexorable increase in pace. I kept up, and it occurred to me, “We are accelerating. His promise is fiction.” Gradual acceleration became outright fleet-footed jaunt. We ended, shall we say, rather vigorously.

I had been a part of the running sub-culture for less than a year when it hit me: I think I’m surrounded by liars.

Don’t get me wrong. I mean this in the most endearing, delightful way possible. I love runners, the scoundrels. I love them when they innocuously perjure themselves; even when they resort to outright fabrication. I love them.

Of course, I may be lying.
White Space