Thomas McKenzie
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Diary of a Slow Ninja, Part Two

Competitive Jogging
Diary of a Slow Ninja, Part Two

Welcome back to the diary of a slow ninja. First off, here is my progress report:

I have now been out running six times in nine days (not counting a one mile run with my girls on Saturday), and in that time I have covered 20 miles. I haven't really settled into a route, but I do like to run a bit over 3 miles. I go up and down some pretty substantial hills over here in Crieve Hall, and I find that my speeds are averaging about 4.6-5.3 miles-per-hour. Like I said, I'm a slow ninja.

Tonight, I was out on the street around dusk for a just over 3 mile run. Most often, I run after the sun has gone down. Ninja's prefer the cover of night. However, with the sun supposedly somewhere in the sky, I encountered something I have not run into before--other runners. (yes, that pun was intentional)

In my "interaction" with these other folks, I have discovered that people are competitive. Myself included. Here is what I mean.

I'm running up a long, very slight uphill. As I'm going, I have one of these moments I have about ten times in my three+ miles. "I can't do this anymore." That's what I think. "I'm going to walk now, I'm done, I'll just walk for a couple of minutes." When this happens, I make deals with myself. I say "no, just make it to the end of this block, then you can walk." That sort of thing. And when I get to the end of the block, I find that I am in a better place, and I just keep running.

OK, back to the story. So I'm running up this road and I'm having these thoughts. Then, five or six houses up, I see a figure come out of the driveway. I can't tell age/gender/ethnicity because s/he is completely bundled up in a parka, like an eskimo who shops at Wal-Mart.

The eskimo has its back to me. It walks for a moment, and then it starts to run. Well, it starts to jog. Kind of trots along a bit.

And then it hits me. If I keep running at this pace, I'm going to pass that person. Better yet, if I speed up just a bit, I might even blaze past them. This will be my first time to ever run past another human being as an official "runner." So, what do I do? I speed up, of course.

My desire to walk is gone. I am pounding the pavement, and I'm gaining on the eskimo at an alarming rate. Now what do I do? Do I pass close, or go out into the middle of the street? Do I sound a warning, or do I assume the person is listening to their iPod blast Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba," as I am now.

I choose to go ninja style, but at a distance. As I start to pass, the eskimo turns and sees me. She(?) gasps, but survives the encounter. I pound past her(?) and keep heading up the street.

I don't look back, which ends up being a mistake. Because not one block further, the slow ninja is passed like he is standing still. Some young blond guy with ruddy cheeks and some kind of baby-blue rubber diving suit blows by me at 60 mph. I think he was a super hero.

Well, he wasn't going that fast, and I'm guessing his super-cool suit wasn't made of rubber. But he definitely shot past me. Guy was on a mission.

That did not help my confidence, but I carried merrily on about my business, rocking out to my super-jacked-up playlist.

I hit some serious hills. I'm going up and up, and my legs are burning. Then I come to a fast down hill. On my bike, this would be awesome. But running down a steep hill isn't really that much fun.

As I hit the bottom of the hill, I turn left. And there, up ahead of me about a block or so, is a middle-aged woman dressed like a bumble bee. She is running, but as I watch she slows to a walk. She must be tired. My second catch of the day!

I'm running up on her at a good clip. I'm only a quarter mile from home at this point, and I have plenty left in the tank. It has started to rain, so I know I won't be tacking on an extra bit to the end of my run. I'm going to get home, and that will be that.

So I'm running up on her, and she reaches a stop sign. She stops, looks, and as I'm coming up, she starts to run across the street. As she does, she looks back and sees me. And a look comes over her face.

OK, I'm just supposing here, but it seems to me that she was intending to run across the street (it can be a dangerous intersection) and then walk again. But, now that she sees me, she decides to run. So when she hits the other side of the intersection, watching me over her shoulder, she takes off. And when I say "takes off," I means she speeds up to about the speed I was going when I was about to pass her.

Well, I'm not putting up with this for one second. So I hit the afterburners and blaze passed this lady. I'm like a superhero in a baby-blue rubber suit. Except that I'm a nearly middle-aged guy dressed like a ninja.

I pour it on and am beating feet down the street. I know I can't maintain this speed, but I don't have to. My house comes up in two blocks. I hit the mailbox and come to a quick stop. I look back, and there is the bumble bee. She is 50 yards behind and coming on fast. She is trying to catch me!

I don't stick around to give her the impression that I'm tired out. I head straight up the drive into my house. And as I enter the carport, I look back. She has slowed way down, back to a little trot, and as she passes my house I know that soon she will be walking again.

And this is how I learned that people who run like to compete. And this is how I learned that I like to compete, even in a sport I am really, really, really new at.

I think from now on I'll stick to running at night. It's less competitive, and therefore both less entertaining and less draining.

In my next entry, perhaps I will tell the story of what happened when the slow ninja found himself surrounded by the Church of Christ. Adventure abounds!

Fun, Slow Ninja, SportsThomas McKenzie