Nodding and Smiling

Washington Park in Denver is quite possibly one of the best parks for running anywhere.  It’s a large park in a very established and rather peaceful neighborhood in Denver.  There is a composite running track that goes along the perimeter of the park that is 2.5 miles around the park.  It’s well maintained and easy on the knees.  There’s an inner loop, actually a road, which is great also for walking, running, biking.  There’s two different lakes within the pond, some huge beautiful trees.

And people.  Lots and lots of people.  This is not exactly the best kept secret in Denver.  Everyone and their dog comes here to run.  Literally.  Well maybe not literally on the everyone part, but the dog part?  Oh yeah.  

Fortunately for those of us who didn’t bring our dogs, most people who take their dogs are pretty good about cleaning up.  It can be kinda comical to see how many people are running along with leash in one hand, plastic bag in the other.

Which leads to the question.  Just who is really who’s best friend?  I mean seriously, how many dogs out there would run along happily carrying a bag of their human’s poop?  

We did our long run yesterday at Wash Park.  It was nice because it was scale back week, so after doing 8 last week, this week it was a simple 5.  A few weeks ago I never EVER would have thought 5 was a simple easy run.  Amazing how that changes huh?  It was a good run, I felt good, I ran a pace I was happy with, though I’m not sure it’s one I could sustain for 9 miles (next week’s run).  But then, it’s a pace I never would have thought I could sustain for 5 miles either.  

And it’s always an interesting run.  You just see all kinds of people running in such a big park that has so many people also running.  You see all the young folk flying along.  You see all the walkers, the older ones, the bigger ones.  It’s interesting how many people you actually remember seeing several times.  There was the lady who looked a lot like Betty White zipping down the trail in her sports bra.  She looked like someone you don’t want to mess with.  

It’s interesting to watch people run.  There are those who just run so smooth and effortlessly.  There are those who lurch around so badly you want to stop them and tell them what to do so they don’t hurt themselves, but then I realize that I’m sure that’s how I look to some others.  I end up thinking in the end, good for you for getting out.  There are the ones who are so skinny that you think that getting more exercise is really the worst thing that could happen to them, what they really need is some bacon, or dipped ice cream!  And that’s when I have to really stop myself because again, what kind of comments are people making in their minds about me?

I start to wonder if watching me coming down the trail makes them think something like in the old DC Talk song:

I saw a man with tattoo on his big fat belly
It wriggled around like marmalade jelly
It took me a while to catch what it said
Cause I had to match the rhythm
Of his belly with my head

Of course I don’t have to worry about too many people thinking of those songs, cuz I’m not sure there’s that many people who’ve ever really heard them before.  Which makes you wonder about the wisdom of quoting such obscure lyrics in a song.  

All this leads me to think that running in a place like Wash Park there’s a running injury danger that one never really thinks of.  Neck cramps.  There are the guys like me who have that belly rhythm thing going on.  And there are those gals who…  well never mind.  But the real danger lies in the fact that runners are too damn friendly.  It’s like every one you pass has to smile, nod and say good morning.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the ones who do not make eye contact are not so rude as much as they have learned that if they don’t make eye contact, they don’t have to nod, and they don’t risk further damaging their neck joints.  

Is there such a thing as carpal tunnel of the neck syndrome?

I know that I get too active in wondering what people think as they see me running by.  I imagine them looking at me with a bit of a scoff the first time, oh there’s another fat guy trying to run, how cute.  Then the next time, it’s like, dang, he’s still going.  And then if they see me a third time it’s like wow, he’s really doing a second lap around the park?  And the fourth time it’s not bad old man, I didn’t think you had it in me.  And then the 5th or 6th time maybe it’s something like hmmm, in this amount of distance I should be seeing this guy only 4 times, not 5 or 6.  One of us is definitely going faster.  Is it him or me?  (one quick look at my pace leads to a snicker and a quick answer to that question).

And it could be they’re not thinking anything at all.  It’s just all the kinds of things I find myself thinking as I pass different people.  Which sometimes makes me think that maybe it’s better to run a quieter isolated trail and save my brain from all this drama.

The reality is probably, if they are thinking anything at all it’s probably more like, “please, don’t nod and smile, my neck hurts and I don’t want to nod back!”

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About Ron Walter

I'm just a guy who was so out of shape he couldn't run to get out of the rain. I'm taking my life back. It's not always perfect, not always successful. The victories though are greater than the defeats. I plan to keep it that way.
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