By Jeggi Elinzano
“Wow, how do you do it?”
I was born in the Philippines and raised in California. My recent trip to Pittsburgh was the first time that I had ever seen snow and been in sub 40 degree weather in my life. The sidewalks were mostly non-existent, with ankle breaking transitions from soft to hard packs of snow. Some parts of the town required you to walk on the side of the street, a few feet separated from speeding cars, with slippery ice suddenly grabbing stability away from you. Yet, despite this and long bouts of lurking, freezing, and salooning till 2 am EST, I was up at 7 am every morning meeting up with other dedicated runners, making my way up winding roads to brick streets lined with small shops and adorable houses looking over the grim medieval metropolis that is Pittsburgh.
It was gorgeous.
Running is not jogging. Jogging is when you go out and feel good about yourself because you’re making a genuine effort to get healthy.
Running, on the other hand, is pain.
It is beating on your body for the sole purpose of burning a few calories and getting a decent heart rate over an extended period of time. You can’t really do anything else. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are just recreational runners and are achieving next to nothing in that time we’re marching our knees into oblivion.
Jogging is something that you do when you feel bad about the burger, fries, and chocolate vanilla mocha cream shake that you had the night before. Running requires dedication and, for some reason, you’re always up at 4:30 am ANY STANDARD TIME feeling like shit just to push yourself further into a rather depressing feeling of shit. Running is obnoxious stretching, lifestyle changes, and diet. You can run with another person, but it’s about as insular and introspective as a sport gets. When you strap on your shoes and head out on your route, when it all comes down to it, the quality of the run is dependent on what you and your body are capable of. The ultra-marathoner you went out with this morning isn’t gonna give a rat’s ass if you can’t make it past 14 miles today.*
The dedication and inevitable sacrifices that a runner makes to achieve their level of fitness really do compromise a lot of the debauchery and romantically apathetic things that go along with a number of the people I find interesting.
Indeed, there’s always a post-Olympic motivation towards health that spreads through the land for a few weeks (at least I like to think so). Indeed, uber-coolsters like Marc Jacobs are walking testaments to the levels of human beauty possible with an exercise life.
However, vegan cupcakes and PBR at 9 pm with hot intellectuals is always going to sound more appealing than a soy protein shake post 5-mile run through the dark and lonely streets of a small, no-name town like Fallbrook, CA (my home).
That said; being fit has found its way into hipsterdom with the recent popularity of cycling. But as a dedicated healtho, I don’t see the particular benefits of 2-miles on a fixie with a cigarette waiting afterward.
I can’t speak for all fixie riders, and I admire the degree of dedication and courage it takes to ride one of these things through crowded streets. However, it just doesn’t seem like all of the Campy hat wearing folks really grasp the true physical requirements and fitness possibilities of riding a fixed gear bike.
Having said that, cycling is fortunate because it has something aesthetically beautiful attached to it—the bicycle itself. In contrast the most beautiful thing about a runner is probably his shoes and legs. But “AirMax 360 and giant calves” definitely don’t sound as sexy as “Colnago and Campagnolo.”
Which brings me to the inevitable question: why do I run?
For me, it starts with the barefoot-Grecian-Marathon romanticism of it all. There aren’t any cranks or saddles or consequent torque multiplication. It’s just me, my New Balance shoes, and the route.
It’s about the small things like being excited to wake up on a particular morning to see if the new pelvic exercise I tried the day before will improve the way my legs flow from step to step. It’s waking up in a new city and discovering more than any other tourist by advertently getting lost and somehow finding myself on the Warhol Bridge. It’s forgetting about time and running up Pike Street to suddenly discover — in what appears to be a theme with running up inclines — a small town that leads to the gorgeous Washington Park Arboretum. It’s about impromptu races through a forest trail off Terwilliger Blvd., with a fast girl chasing after you, and once again finding myself in some gorgeous sub-town of a larger city (in this case the city is Portland, Oregon).
Whatever your cup of tea, serious cycling or serious running, the entire act of dedicating one’s self to fitness is beautiful. The sacrifices you make affect you physically and mentally in every conceivable way. There are times when it just feels absolutely shitty, but when it comes down to it — if you love it — you always come back focused, feeling good, and smiling. I respect a fixed gear cyclist if their lot is to ride a route as fast and hard as possible, get home to some protein, and do it again the next day. It’s transcending the cool for the sole purpose of being at some level of form and fitness.
For me, I love the runner’s clock; the pit and pat of step after step after step. I love breathing in my surroundings, whether it’s the Alvarado Street Hill in Fallbrook or running up Mt. Washington in 33 degree weather in Pittsburgh, PA. I love the stretching, the protein, and the carbs. I love cross-training, light weights, and core building. I love the early mornings and the late night treks through darkness. I adore it all.
The romanticism of grungy, Cobaine-y apatheticism is, now to me, boring. And cliche. Don’t get me wrong. I love the rings under your eyes, your messy hair, and your smelly plaid. I still think those Doc Martins look sexy on your skinny legs. Unfortunately, it’s gotten quite tired.
The rings under my eyes are because I was right there with you into the night but woke up at 7:30 and ran past the “Arkham Asylum” prison that’s a few blocks from the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’m not any more special than you, I just really, genuinely, love what I’m about to do.
In fact, I love that I love it. You have to in order to do this shit every morning. It’s a filter. There’re the cool kids and then there’s us. There’s nothing purer.
Keep running… or not.
Or at least jog or something.
*just kidding. We’re a dedicated breed, but we’re not assholes. At least I’m not.
Jeggi is a writer who lives in San Diego. He is an avid runner and has contributed to Anthem.com.