By Tim Hayes
My daughter just successfully completed her first half-marathon last weekend. Obviously, she got my long-distance endurance genes. As if. Allow me to explain.
Eons ago, while a freshman in high school, my friends and I signed up to participate in a 20-mile walk all over the City of Pittsburgh to raise money for some charity – muscular dystrophy or the March of Dimes. Doesn’t really matter now.
You asked people to pledge a certain amount for each mile, and on the big day it made for some happy film for the Saturday evening TV news as hundreds of people took a long stroll around the city on behalf of a good cause.
The morning of the event, my buddies and I hopped a bus Downtown to the starting line. We had on our everyday tennis shoes and blue jeans. This would be a piece of cake. Twenty miles? Ha! Child’s play. We were a bunch of cocky 14-year-old guys. What could possibly stop us?
Off to the side sat a big yellow school bus with a giant banner reading “Poop-Out Bus” hanging from both sides.
“Ho, the Poop-Out Bus!” we howled. “How big of a wuss would you have to be to get on that thing?”
Before long, the whistles sounded and we began the march out to the far neighborhoods and back Downtown. Our little gang hung together for the first five or six miles, talking, laughing, having a good time being young goofballs together. At about Mile 10, some of the guys speeded up, wanting to run for a while. I, being strategic about the event all of a sudden, thought it best to conserve energy and just maintain a steady walking pace.
Those stiff blue jeans – more like dungarees, actually – started to chafe, just a little. But, nah, nothing to worry about. We were halfway done already, weren’t we? Yeah, piece of cake. It was all downhill from here.
Over the next three miles, I seemed to lose my entire cluster of friends. Alone, thighs chafing so bad I could fry eggs on them, and left to wonder why I ever signed up for this Bataan Death March on the Monongahela, I saw the Poop-Out Bus coming up from the rear.
Here was my chance. Flag down that stupid thing, take a seat, have some water, cool off my blazing behind, and get back Downtown before anybody else. They won’t be able to figure out how I arrived before them. I could cement my high school reputation right then and there.
It took every bit of willpower, but I resisted the lure of the Poop-Out Bus. On I walked, coming over the crest of a hill and seeing the tops of the Downtown skyscrapers on the horizon. It couldn’t have been more than three more miles to the finish line.
But why, in the name of all that is holy, did I wear these accursed blue jeans today, of all days? Afraid to look down, for fear of seeing myself fully engulfed in a raging inferno, I felt my feet and legs screaming for relief. In the days before sneakers engineered with more attention than the Space Shuttle, we had a flat strip of rubber for a sole and a wafer-thin slice of alleged “foam” for arch support. It was like walking with a mouse pad stuck to the bottom of your feet. For 20 miles.
Hot, tired, sore, fed up, and with nobody I knew in sight to make fun of me later, I succumbed to the inevitable and caught the next Poop-Out Bus. Had I “hit the wall,” in the parlance of long-distance runners? No, actually, I think the wall hit me.
Dame Fortune rode with me, though, because just as I disembarked, the majority of my friends made it to the finish line. The bus’ drop-off spot stood off to the side, so nobody saw me get off. I craftily snuck into the general flow of walkers and caught up with my buddies, telling them I had been within sight of them for miles.
Because, you know, the Poop-Out Bus? How big of a wuss would you have to be to get on that thing?
Copyright 2014 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting