We all know this. They’re like Walter White in “Breaking Bad” doomed. I’ve been running dutifully ever since middle school. Even though my weight has fluctuated, I’ve kept at it. My knees have carried the weight of my overeating, my frustrations, my jubilation and my sorrows.
Running is as dependable as the stars in the sky. It’s one of the two last forms of casual meditation on this earth. The other is driving in the car, but cell phones are conspiring against my peace of mind on that front, too.
Running may be all I have left. But the longer I do it, the more brittle my knees will become until I simply can’t do it anymore. This happens to every runner I know. Knee-replacement surgeries haven’t received good reviews.
My knees are my body’s hour glass.
Sometimes, when I get lost in that meditative state that can only occur when you’re jogging and listening to Daft Punk, I think about the races I’ve ran knowing I would lose.
One of those races – actually a 5k – was the Sept. 12 Kaiser Permanente Corporate Run/Walk, the least-fun sounding event in the history of event planning. They call it the World’s Largest Office Party, which is like saying it’s the World’s Largest Awkward Conversation and Gossip Social. Only with more sweat.
It was a fine event, and all that. They closed streets in Atlanta which meant that we had a 50 percent less chance of being hit by the car than if the streets had been open. I ran at a good pace, drank free water and received a banana. I also received a free t-shirt, which is mandatory for every event because it helps remind you of that thing you did that resulted in the free shirt.
Don’t ask me my time. It’s not about all that. (In loser speak: I’ve never won a race, so screw it.)
It’s about daydreaming. I can go all the way back to middle school, my first pair of New Balance running shoes, going to cross country meets at 4 in the morning out in God-knows-where Mississippi. My coach, Steve, was a born again Christian and my history teacher. He listened to music made within the last decade, so he had a coolness factor that set him apart from everyone else.
He gave me this shirt that I still have and it has a quote on it from a Bible verse, Hebrews 12:1, “And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
I’m not particularly religious, but I’ve always liked that shirt. Something about the way that’s phrased sticks with you like a scar. A 5K event is a command to march for no obvious purpose. Be here at this place and time, run until you feel like puking and then eat some snacky treats.
Running is painful. You get shin splints and side stitches. You invest in new shoes every six months, if you run a lot.
Every jog is another knock against my knee caps.
But I feel this compulsion to do this thing that’s sabotaging my knees. If I don’t run for a few days, I get all stir crazy. Running pushes my reset button and suddenly the generalized crumminess of being an adult feels more manageable.
I really hope my knees can keep up with me through my 30s and, if the 30s are indeed the new 20s, probably another decade or two after that. Run that race with endurance, knees. I need you guys to be the Honda of knees, not the Ford. We have a lot of pain and suffering yet ahead of us, both on the race course and in life.
We don’t want to be left out.