Wednesday, November 30, 2016

More Fish Pond Haikus

a pelican dives
seeking the fish farm's bounty
a swimmer breaths, sees

a flock of geese dive
they seek the fish farms' safety
a struggling man swims

workers seine the pond
swimmer follows the harvest
he swims clean water

Monday, November 28, 2016

11/21 - 11/27

Swimming slowed to a crawl and running crawled to a full gallop during the past training cycle. Monday I skipped the pool because I needed a big run to get the right stagger of hard/easy efforts so I could go long on Thanksgiving Day. I did 8.3 miles with some quality intervals thrown in.

Tuesday I went to DSU during lunch. I saw Tabatha there, the new girl at Masters who used to lifeguard at the pool years ago when she was a student there. We did a few sets together. I swam

750 warm up
8 X 50 @ 1:15 
6 X 150 with a floating fast 50 (1 -3 X 2) @3:00
20 X 100 @ 2:00
750 small paddles
total 4,800 yards = 4,387 meters.

Later that day I shuffled 3.55 miles.

Wednesday I did a lot of napping and some preparation for Robert Roberts funeral. I ran 3.26 which included a trip to the hospital track where I did some tire flipping and box jumps. In the afternoon I lifted weights benching 150 X 3 three times. 

On Thanksgiving Day, I left the house at 9:30 and started shuffling towards Hillbilly Heaven. I ran 15.69 and walked 1.2 for a total of 16.89 foot miles. I even managed to be temperate in my food consumption. I was right proud of myself.

Friday was dedicated to one thing: preaching Robert Roberts funeral. I prepared in the morning, made my way to Indianola after lunch, preached the service at 3:00 o'clock, and arrived back home at about 5:30.

Saturday, I did an easy run back to the hospital track where I did some squats, box jumps, and tire flips. I intended to lift weights, but the egg bowl and an unexpected request knocked all of that in the head. Mississippi State had a big win over Mississippi. I cried.

For the week, I 

swam 4,387 meters,
ran 34.19 miles,
lifted weights once, and 
walked 2.6 miles.

For the year, I have now run 1,042.72 miles and swum 824,850 meters.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fish Pond Haikus


swimmer yearns to work
while ducks swarm off the pond--
summer will return


ducks fly overhead
wings circle the pond below
a sole swimmer glides


yellow leaves drift down
a cool wind drives geese above
the swimmer steps in

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Haikus 20 and 21

Fall Swimming

Haiku 20

lonely pool sits quiet
leaves clutter the green bottom
one man swims alone

Haiku 21

no more clear the long pool
shortened days make water chill
a lonely man swims

Monday, November 21, 2016

11/14 - 11/27

I feel like I am almost back in terms of running although my weight is still high. But it was a good cycle and I am beginning to make the shift from swim centered to run centered training. Usually that shift has taken place already, but the warm weather has kept me in the outdoor water much longer than usual. Thank you, Lord.

Monday I went to Twin Rivers and since I ate myself out of my new wetsuit over the weekend, I went skins in 64 degree water. I only did 1,200 meters before I tapped and then shuffled 2.31 miles.

Tuesday I decided to focus on a longish run so I did not bother with the pool. I ran 8.08 miles with some hard quarter miles thrown in. I intended to lift some weights but got lazy and didn't do it. 

Wednesday I was back at the pool, skins, and the water had risen to 65. I did 1,300 meters and then ran 2.3 miles. Finally, I did my only weight session of the week and benched 145 for five reps.

Thursday I did a rare double dip, maybe the only one ever in the fall. I hit Twin Rivers for 1,100 (water 66) and then made my first trip to DSU in at least seven months. The water felt pretty warm compared to my outdoor swimming. We did

600 warm up
800 12:38
2 X 400 decline 1-4 by 100 (r :40)
50 easy
600 9:06
50 easy
2 X 300 decline 1-3 by 100
200 cool down
total: 3,700 yards
total for day converted to meters = 4,481

Friday was long run day. I did a run/walk workout and totaled 15.7 miles as 13.5 miles running and 2.26 miles walking.

Saturday Penny and I went to Jackson shopping with the Johnson's. Gerald and I did some walking. I didn't get to count any of the indoor stuff, but outdoors I totaled 5.01 miles.

For the week, I

swam 6,981 meters,
lifted weights once,
ran 28.44, and 
walked 9.71 miles.

Now I am over 1,000 miles running for the year and the swim total is 820,463 meters.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Have to Be Strong

I have heard it 163 times. I bet you have too. Maybe you've even said it yourself. Every time someone dies, someone I know, I hear a survivor say, "I have to be strong for whomever."

Question: Where does this idea come from?

Another question: Whom does it help if we are "strong"?

Answers: The idea that we "have to be strong" does not come from the Bible. As far as I can tell, it is not even written in the works of Shakespeare or the writings of Dante, nor was it said by the famous Don Quixote. Yet is gets repeated over and over and over by people who burden themselves with the idea that they are doing their loved ones good by "being strong." Please rethink this notion.

Yes, there is a passage that could be interpreted as supporting the "being strong" thing. Romans 15:1 states

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (KJV)

What this verse is saying is that we should be patient with the failings of others, not that we should be strong for them. This distinction is shown in the New International Version's translation of the same verse:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

This becomes even more clear, at least in my mind, when we look at mourning in the Bible. As far back as Genesis, I fail to encounter the "being strong" thing but instead I find a heavy emphasis on mourning. For example, upon Jacob's death the Bible says that "Joseph fell up his father's face and wept" (50:1). At Jacob's burial, the Word of God reads that "they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation and he made mourning for his father seven days" (50:10).

David mourned for the deaths of Bathsheba's child, for his son Absalom, for Saul and Jonathan, for Abner. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). Take note that no one backslid when "Jesus wept," no one went back and refused to follow, no one was disillusioned. Instead they noted how Jesus loved him (Lazarus).

When I was a boy, we had a tomcat who was insane. Really, he was a sociopath, the most violent, dangerous feline I have ever know. I remember Dad having to run him out of the house with a broom because he got stirred up and wouldn't settle down but kept attacking anything that moved. He was banished to the outdoors where he roamed away from home sometimes days at a time. He always returned with terrible wounds to his head and he would lie around on the back stoop, stinking because of his infections. There was no taking him to the vet. You did not dare touch him, but left him food and left him alone for your own safety. He did not want your touches or baby talk or any of the other interactions that most cats year for.

He lived like that a couple of years, and then early one summer day we discovered him dead on the back steps. That morning, my mother sat down at the kitchen table and wept for William the insane, mean, dangerous cat. Now, fifty years later it remains my favorite memory of Mom and the most perfect, poignant, noble example of how she was and is and how she raised me and us. Thank God she did not get the memo about "being strong." I really believe that experience translated, transferred something into my soul, something that remains there until this day. Anyone who knows me very well, is aware that I am a fool for cats. I can't help it; it's just the way I am; it's the way my mom made me.

Please remember that when a loved one dies, no one benefits from you "being strong." Your children or grandchildren or whoever is near you need to see your weakness, your tears, your humanity. Instead of being comforted by a brave face, you will be connected by your common humanity by being weak, by being broken, by being a person. Jesus said, "My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9).

When my dad passed, I went through a long period of mourning. Several months after his death, my truck broke down and I instinctively, habitually reached into my pocked for my phone to call him. When things go wrong, who you gunna call? For me, it was always Dad. Before I could began to punch in the numbers, his absence was thrust upon my consciousness in a powerful and profound way. It was not a good day. It was a day of tears and sorrow.

Gradually, the tears became fewer and farther between. More often than cry, I laugh at memories of him being himself, of him being the unique individual he was. Those around me rarely saw my tears then or my laughter now. My granddaughter was one of the few who did. At one gathering, who hugged me and told me she was sorry. I wept. I am sure I did her no harm that day. She remains the most thoughtful, considerate, sweetest child I have ever known.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Odes to Her

Ode to Her 1 

Lean arms reach, delicate fingers wave
She stares, beckons, flirts
Her soft surface covers secrets
A famous man lies in the depths
of her darkness,
An unknown man plied her lengths
He writes of her beauty
He sings over her with rejoicing.

Ode to Her 2

He rejoiceth over her with words
His camera captures her form
His eyes follow her comely lines.
Many pass her and never notice
the shapely hips
the long loins,
She waves and invites the strangers
She winks and smiles. Come to me
and I will give thee joy.
One man hears
He writes a date
He plans his return.

Monday, November 14, 2016

11/7 - 11/13

A decent week it was for running. The swimming, however, began to fall off with the plunging water temps. Monday I made it to the pool for an easy 2,100 meters splash. The water was a nice 69.5. After night class, I shuffled 2.1 miles.

By Tuesday the water had actually risen to 70 degrees, but for some reason I can't remember, I only swam 1,200 meters. Then I went out for a 7.52 mile multi-paced run. Maybe that's why.

Wednesday was my first swim in my new sleeveless shorty wetsuit. I did 2,400 meters, lifted some weights, and ran 2.11 miles.

The water had fallen to 68 by Thursday and I enjoyed my 3,100 meters swim. I would have done more, but I was experiencing some unexpected chaffing under my arms due to the wetsuit. I didn't run at all after the swim but went home and spent time with the cats. 

Friday I ran 10.06 miles with some pacing thrown in, my longest in a while. I also did some weightlifting.

Saturday I ran 1.97 miles and did some more lifting for both upper and lower body.

For the week, I

ran 23.78 miles,
lifted weights twice,
swam 8,800 meters, and 
walked 4.23 miles.

For the year, that puts me at 813,482 meters swimming (505 miles) and 980.09 miles running. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Haikus 18 and 19

Haiku 18

Leaves on the pool's floor
Gray clouds block the sun above,
Swimmer strokes strongly.

Haiku 19

Cold steel barbell waits
Backyard gym sits quietly,
Today he brings noise.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Toys

Don't tell my wife, but I bought some new toys. 

Seriously, keep it quiet.

She used to buy our granddaughter barbie doll after barbie doll after barbie doll and say, "You can't have too many barbie dolls." Not a problem for me.

If she is around when my packages come in, however, she often says, "Don't you already have that?" 

My answer is usually, "Baby, you can't have too many barbie dolls."

Monday, my fresh practice jammer and new neoprene swim cap came in from, and I couldn't wait to get to the pool and try them out. I was pleasantly surprised at how much the cap helped. The pool had chilled to 69.5. Not only was the cap comfortable, but while I swam my head was as warm as a baked potato fresh out of the oven.

According to the email that sent, my shorty wetsuit was due to be delivered Thursday but it came in a day early. Don't judge me for not shopping local, because you can't get this stuff around here. If you could, they would name the store after me.

The shorty was not too expensive. Since I already own a full, I bought the sleeveless shorty as an intermediary to swim in the upper and mid-sixties. It fit well, and when I started swimming in the 69 degree water Wednesday, I liked the way it hugged me and kept the water out and the heat in. My arms were free and my legs were pretty much like they are without a suit. My body position was, however, a little higher in the water. With a full on, your legs are so high and buoyant that it's hard to kick. Not so with this shorty.

I had things to do so I only swam for forty-five minutes. But that was long enough at that temp to begin to lose some body parts, namely my big toes. When I got out, however, I was comfortable and nothing was numb. So I made a good purchase; I have some new barbie dolls. And really, I saved some money because normally I am driving to Delta State twice per week this time of year. I have already saved in gas what I spent on the new equipment. From now on everything is pure savings.
Ready to swim in my new cap and shorty suit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Haikus 16 and 17

Haiku 16: The King

God is King above,
the world follows His voice,
send, O Lord, your peace.

Haiku 17: One Worthy

Child dreams of heroes,
Boy ponders his future life,
Man finds One worthy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tanka 1 and 2

Tanka 1: His Great-grandfather

He leaves home and runs
five days on the road he roams
stopping at a grave
his great-grandfather's tombstone
he kneels and cries at the sight

Tanka 2: A Worthy Walk

The day is clear, warm
We wait on friends then journey
to Ole Miss' campus
for DFM's Oxford walk
We fight one step at a time

The DFM Oxford Walk

She popped up at the passenger's side window giving me a little bit of a startle. I was composing a haiku, one about our upcoming activities, while Penny and I sat in the Dollar General parking lot in Carrollton waiting for the rest of Team Centerville to arrive so we could get our convoy on and head to Oxford, Mississippi. We were going to do the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi's walk on that beautiful Ole Miss campus. Sheila Mitchell held out a baggy full of something, sausage balls we learned.

"Y'all want some?" she asked.

"Sure," Penny answered. 

Then the Johnsons arrived and we wasted no time but hit the road, three vehicles and nine people bound for the school up north. When we got to town, we turned off Highway 6 onto Jackson Street and stopped and some kind of fancy sandwich shop. The cashier asked me if I wanted a half or a whole when I ordered my Turkey Guacamole BLT Sandwich. The question made me think of a footlong so I thought a half was plenty. Boy was I disappointed when they brought out a little runt of a sandwich.

After eating, or snacking in my case, we made it to the Lyceum where we thought we had to be by 1:00 o'clock. Turns out that registration started at one and the walk at two. That was OK, though, because it gave us plenty of time to get signed up and for us to have our devotion on the steps of that famous building I can't remember the name of.

Irena McClain greeted us as we walked up. When we registered, we had a little over $200 for a donation. That entitled us to four T-shirts (one shirt for each $50.00 donated). Irena told the girls working the table to let the whole team have a shirt since we were the ones who did the Chicot Challenge. Thank you, Irena.

When the walk started, I had planned to run at least 2.1 miles to finish out a twenty-mile week, my first of that volume since injuring my knee a couple of months back. But there were several Kandu Kids up front and I didn't want to pass them so I waited until we had a sidewalk and started shuffling on it therefore passing them without fanfare. I ran several side streets and thus stayed close to the main pack while getting my distance in. Then when we got to the square downtown I caught up the Gerald, Debbie, and Penny and walked the rest of the way with them. As we neared the Lyceum, Gerald started shuffling and we went another .23. All in all, I shuffled 2.33 miles and walked 2.52.

The weather was glorious, the skies being clear and the temperature hovering around 70. Huge, beautiful trees cover the campus and squirrels play like a litters of kittens on a carpeted floor. Gerald remarked that the tree rats here have a pretty good life. I reckon so. Since sponsors of the event supply hot dogs and other amenities, we sat around, ate, and had easy conversation while enjoying the weather, the squirrels, and each other. The day's events capped off a great weekend. 

Then it was time to go. I had to get back and stay with Mom. Gerald, Debbie, Kelsey and Trevor stayed in town and ate again. Yeah, they're good like that. 
Team Centerville: Front row -Trevor McClain, Beth Moore.
Middle row -Debbie Johnson, Sheila Mitchell, Penny Hodge, Kelsey McClain.
Back row - Gerald Johnson,  Zane Hodge, Gary Moore.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Poor Poem to a Rich Lake

Chicot is my swim
She also is God's large lake
I recline in her breasts
Safe in her embrace

10-/31 - 11/6

For the first week of November, I had a really good training cycle, a 20/20 one. I think this is my first one ever this time of year.

Monday I swam 4,400 meters at Twin Rivers and then shuffled 1.73 miles. Tuesday, the water at the pool was still a comfortable 75 degrees and I swam 5,700 as

1,200 23:58
1,100 22:04
1,000 20:15
900 18:06
800 15:57
700 14:17

After dark I slipped out for a 5.68 mile multi-paced effort. I slept well, had good dreams, and awoke with praise to God for a good life.

By Wednesday the water had dropped 74.5 and I only did 2,600 easy meters and 2.55 miles of easy shuffling. But I added some weightlifting in the back yard gym.

Thursday the water had rebounded to a full 75, and I swam a straight 6,400 meters. Besides my 2.06 mile run, I did some more upper body lifting focusing solely on my deficient biceps.

Friday I swam an easy 3,400 meters, did some more upper body lifting, and ran a very easy 1.68 miles to let my legs rest for Saturday's trip to Vardaman where I won my age group in 27:50. I did some more shuffling after the race and wound up with 4.23 miles on the day.

Sunday I usually do no exercise, but we (Team Centerville) traveled to Oxford for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi's annual walk. I will write a separate post on the walk so suffice here to say that I ran a total of 2.33 and walked 2.52 while there. It was a good day.

For the week, I

ran 20.26
swam 25,100 meters,
lifted weights three times, and 
walked 7.84 miles. 

I don't think I ever swam 25,000 this late in the year. To have a 20/20 week was huge and has me thinking about Chicot VI already.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Vardaman 5K

The Johnsons, Debbie and Gerald, arrived at our house a little before 6:00 am. It was dark outside and cold or at least what I call cold. I reminded myself that although I dislike rising early, I rarely regret it when I do. I had no sorrows at the end of this day either, only good memories of good times with good friends.

We drove to Vardaman, a small town located along Highway 8 in northeast Mississippi, to attend their annual Sweet Potato Festival. In addition to vendors lining the downtown streets, part of the town's yearly celebration involves hosting a 5K. The race started at 8:00 am, thus necessitating our early departure.

This was Penny's and my first trip to the town and festival. I have driven by the village many times, but like so many other dots along the map, I had no exposure to the town itself or its people. So when we got there and parked in the hamlet's grocery store parking lot, I got out and bolted in search of the race start. 

I walked until I found a policeman who told me to go to the water tower, which I did and found a table and a few shorts clad people milling about trying to stay warm on our first really chilly morning. I assumed they were runners and I assumed right. I registered, payed my $18 entry fee, and asked the volunteer at the table how many runners were signed up. 

"You make thirty-eight," she answered. 

I then began to warm up a bit and chatted briefly with some of the other participants.

"I like this one," one middle-aged tall man told me "because it is so low key. Nothing fancy here. We just go out and run."

I found his word accurate, and I fell for the race's charm in part for the same reason he expressed. I also liked the course which is mostly delta flat but has two hills one of which caused me some pain in my thighs and chest. Just last week, I ran the two MDCC races where I averaged 9:12 per mile. I hoped, as we lined up ready to start, to drop it a little below 9:00. Those two school races along with a long run Tuesday, I reasoned, should tune me up a little. On the negative side, I weighed 171.6 this morning. Terrible.

I tried to hold back but went out a little too quickly. Then I settled down after about a half mile in and hit a rhythm that was tough but one I though I could hold. My splits were

mile one - 8:54
mile two - 9:04
mile three - 8:42
.13 - 8:27
time - 27:50
average per mile - 8:52

These numbers show that my fitness progressed a little with the last two weeks' running. This one was on a cool morning which no doubt helped the average some, but I reason that the two hills at least partly negated that advantage. In short, I ran hard, was pleased with my performance, and had a good experience.

After finishing the race, I went out for some additional light running and got in another 1.1 miles. Then I found Gerald at the start/finish line and we waited for the awards ceremony. I took first place in the 60 and over group. When the other age group winners were announced, I did not know what they received in place of a trophy. It looked like some sort of card, a gift certificate? I didn't know. But when they handed me mine, I quickly saw that it was an envelope with some cash inside. What?!?!?

That's right. I got a T-shirt, and great experience, and $15 bucks cash for my efforts. Not a bad deal. That means they lost money on me, but they gained a new runner who will probably go back as long as my old man legs can still shuffle a bit.

After the race and awards ceremony, Gerald and I did our shopping. We made the whole loop and tried to shop like our wives taught us. I was in the market for a folding knife and some honey. Gerald was on a quest to find a cook book. We looked at every vendor, and I examined knives at three of them. Only after looking at everything did we begin to spend money. I bought the lightest folding knife I found to replace the one I carry when I train to protect myself from cougars and coyotes. It no longer locks so if I had to use it, I might cut my own fingers off if it folded up on me. I sprung for a pint of honey and a bag of pig skins. Gerald found his cook book, two of them. He also bought honey and pig skins, and then we went back to the truck.
Gerald and I at the start/finish line.

It was now around 11:00 o'clock and we weren't there too long before the wives came back. All their shopping had them as giddy as a deer hunter who had just killed a Boone and Crockett buck. We then left and drove to Grenada where we had a nice lunch at Jake and Rips. Gerald and I even got to watch some of the Mississippi State versus Texas A&M game as well as the Ole Miss/Georgia Southern match up.

We arrived home with some afternoon left. I took and nap and then went to the pool. The water had dropped from 75 to 72. That was OK. I enjoyed an easy 2,600 meters and then settled in for some serious football watching and cat petting. Right now the Alabama/LSU game is in the third quarter. CC is sleeping at my feet, as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. So am I, that happy. It has been a good day.
CC and I watching the game.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Two Malnourished Haikus

A bit back Samuel Lott told me my haikus were not any good. I was not surprised. He has, however, praised some of my latter efforts. These two I offer today may not be so sporty either, but they are mine, and if I wait any longer to publish them, they will die on a page in a notebook. It is better for a poor poem to live than to die before ever being born. That is what a wise man named Jim Bob once said.

Haiku 14

The weather is great
Water is that perfect temp
Calming to my soul

Haiku 15

October is here
Twin Rivers is still open
I swim there daily

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Haiku 13: Dying Pool

The pool's pumps are off
Algae grows and dead bugs rot
The swimmer has joy

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Running While Happy

OK, I had my whine fest. Now let's get a little more positive. Usually I am.

Tuesday I stayed with Mom instead of my normal night of Wednesday. My sister is out of town and things have to change when she's gone.

I arrived at Mom's around 6:00 pm, got her supper, and administered her meds. 

"Are you going running?" she asked.

"Yeah. Just a bit."

So I slipped out the door and headed west, crossed Park Avenue, and shuffled onto Medallion Street. From there, I turned west again onto John Pittman Drive where I could be alone and have stretches of open road. I saw the late afternoon orange above the horizon as night's victory over day was close but not yet complete. Wow. Thank you, God.

A lot of good things happen when I run. This one went from blah to nice. That's rare for running but happens a lot when I swim. Usually, for me at least, every run is on a slow downward trajectory. If it starts bad it only gets worse. But Tuesday night, I slowly warmed up and both Mo and Jo found me out there in the dark and joined the effort.

For about an hour, I had the diligently sought after sense of freedom, that feeling I love so much and seek and work for like the crews on Gold Rush who work furiously going after that yellow stuff. Also I noticed the absence of knee discomfort that has plagued me of late. Thank you, God. I turned off John Pittman, shuffled all the way back to the frontage road along Highway 82 and then went back to John Pittman on another side street.

Then I had my solitude shattered, but in a good way.

"Hey Dr. Hodge," someone yelled from a passing car. I love that.

It's kind of the opposite of what I wrote about in "Running While Male." Those kind of shout outs make me feel . . . words fail me here. The worn out adjective "good" doesn't seem adequate. I like those incidents for a number of reasons some of which I list below

  • I love that title that I worked for years and years and years to earn.
  • I am happy that someone, a current or former student, recognizes me.
  • I find it satisfying that I feel connected to the community and someone in the community feels connected to me.
  • I am delighted that somebody out there cares enough to speak.
These encounters give me an inner glow like that evening orange in the sky that doesn't fade quickly but lingers and lightens the dark places of my mind.

Sometimes I have other kinds of encounters out there in the night. When I see a cat I always speak. Often they run; more often they give me a long look; occasionally, I receive a meow and I've even had one follow for a few steps. Once, a stranger cat stepped out into the street and allowed me to pet her. Thank you, cat.

Of late I have been bumping into a pretty wide array of wildlife. I see raccoons. I have seen a gray fox, in town, twice. There is even a shift of owls that works the neighborhood I live in. I hear their hoots. I hear their wings flap. One bright moon-lit night a large shadow passed overhead engulfing me first startling then delighting me.

I even saw a smart-looking terrier trotting north on Grand Boulevard one night like he had a purpose, like he knew where he was going. Later that same night, I saw him on Monroe Avenue, still trotting along like he had an appointment. I never knew what he was doing out alone or if he arrived at his destination on time.

Back to Tuesday night. It happened two more times. Two other people in cars passed and yelled, "Hey Dr. Hodge." 

That's running while happy.

That's why I keep going back out.

That covers a multitude of frights and offenses. 

Thank you, God.


Her incomparable beauty is a testimony 
to the Creator of all.
Her long curves are shapely hips,
Her banks please the eye. 
Her belly makes my heart rejoice.
Her welcome arms embrace a journey 
of untold magnitude and joy. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Running While Male

Sorry for the whining. Sometimes you just gotta. 

I just gotta.

I'm also sorry for the offense some may take. I am in the demographic that is not afforded the right to complain and normally I don't. This time I'm doing it anyway.

I really do understand. I am a son, a husband, a father of a daughter, and grandfather of the most beautiful girl in the world. My grandma was my most favoritest person on earth. I like women, and I am sensitive to their concerns. But I feel the obligation and impulse to communicate how difficult it is to run while male. I know, cry me a river.

I understand women's need to protect themselves. I understand women must be vigilant at all times. I understand that women must not let their guards down. However, women's reactions to me have been so severe that it has changed where I run, when I run, and how I run. I now avoid Grand Boulevard, a well-lit, well-traveled street in Greenwood, Mississippi that has sidewalks on both of its beautiful tree-lined sides. It is a popular site for walkers and runners of all ages and . . . gasp . . . genders. Since I have had so many bad encounters on it, I now avoid it as much as possible. I am forced to run it some, however, to get to my beloved Money Road where I can free myself from fright and traffic and people and be in the country in the wide-open spaces. The fright I seek to free myself from is not the fight I have of others, but the fright I cause others. 

I have known for a long time that I scare the bejesus out of women. Before becoming a teacher, I paid the bills by working in the pest control industry. I used to get depressed at how women responded to me. I remember well when mobile phones (not cell phones but mobile land lines) hit the market. In no time, every home had one or three and every woman who answered a knock at the door was holding a mobile phone to her ear. I get it: be safe, you don't know who that is at the door; make them think you are on the phone. OK. It makes sense, but it sort of builds up on you. At least it did me.

But that wasn't the only thing that happened. Virtually every day I had a fright-causing encounter with women. Once, when I was walking back to my truck after inspecting a house for termites, a woman started screaming somewhere nearby, the kind of screaming you hear on those old horror movies. I ran to my truck, jumped in, and sped away finding a high gear, and not even leaving my report slip. Later I learned through a co-worker whom the screamer confided in that she simply saw me and was frightened and began to scream. She looked out her window, saw me in the neighbors yard, and began to scream bloody murder. Thanks.

Another time, I knocked on the door of a contract house. No response. Then I saw an elderly woman peek out a window and the horror on her face so shocked me that I left immediately determined never to return. But my job was to inspect that house, so I made a phone call, talked to the lady, and eventually went back. I don't blame the woman. She should have been wary. But that look of abject terror painted on her elderly, grandmotherly face just because she saw me won't lie still in my mind even now some twenty-five years later.

Back to running. It happens so often that I find myself saying, "Dang it," every time I am out ambulating and see a female. I cross the road, take a turn, do anything I can to avoid them, not so much for their comfort as for mine. I don't want to go through it again, that reaction that makes me feel terrible, that makes me feel as if I have somehow done something wrong.

A few things you need to know. I am a skinny 5'10'' 60-year old white male with a light bone structure and very thin totally white hair. I find it incredulous that anyone could possibly be intimidated by me in any setting. How is it even possible? Maybe I can understand a woman being startled by my presence at night, but this stuff happens in broad daylight on Grand Boulevard with heavy traffic on both sides of the street. 

Greenwood recently built a walking track on the Yazoo River bank and I frequent it with great joy. It gets me out of the traffic and offer a great place to do interval training knowing that cars won't interrupt my efforts. As great as this place is, occasionally I cross paths with a woman. Or two. Often they are in groups, but that matters not because whenever we approach, their cell-phone filled hands always find their ears. I get it. Be safe. But a group of women meeting up with a 60-year old man who is doing an old-man shuffle with enough loud clothes on to glow in the dark? I wear a hunter orange cap, a safety yellow shirt, and shorts that are a bit short. Do I look like I am trying to sneak up on you? Do I look strong enough and virile enough doing my 12:00 minuter per mile shuffle to be a physical threat?

Please understand that I have lived in this town my entire life. I worked pest control for almost three decades, I now teach, and I am on the front page of the paper at least once per year. People either know me personally, or at least have seen my face. I have no criminal record and have not assaulted any one recently. Not in a long time. Not ever. So how do I continue to put fear into the hearts of so many people?

How old will I have to be when this no longer happens? My dad ran until he was 82 and then he walked until the very day he left this earth. He literally died with his running shoes on, and I hope to go the same way. He and I talked about running a often. We talked about racing in the old days, about training, about bad dogs we encountered, and about being harassed. But I never asked him about this one. If I could go back in time, this is something I would change.

Let me tell you one more anecdote. Two years ago, I ventured out of my little town and traveled to the Tanglefoot Trail where I ran a Buddy Bones Marathon (that's code for I did my own race). Somewhere out there all alone I heard some voices around a bend I was approaching. Women!! I scooted to the far right side of the trail and sort of slumped over to make myself look even smaller and less threatening than I already am. When I rounded the curve, I encountered a group of 6 (sorry for the numeral. My computer will no longer type the letter needed to write that one out) women. It was 6 of them. 6. Did I mention there were 6 women in that group? When they saw me, every single one of them grabbed a cell phone and put it to her ear. Every one. Me versus 6 women. 

Let's pretend for a moment that I am a serial killer who attacks and murders women on sight. Do I for a single second look like I could take one 6 small children much less 6 grown women? Come on. I averted my eyes, ran off the right side of the trail and said narry a word. Later, maybe fifty yards later, I looked back and low and behold one or two of them were still looking back at me with cell phone still in hand and still to ear.

Ladies, I apologize for your fear. It is well earned I am sure. But when you know you are safe, why don't you act like it? Please consider the feelings of your fellow human beings. True, I don't know what it is like to run while woman. But neither do you know what it is like to run while male. It is painful, frustrating, and at time insulting. I keep taking it, however, and will continue to take it because I partly understand your fear and because running means too much to me for me to be dissuaded by anything you could possibly do to me. And if you know me and bump into me while I am out shuffling, don't bother speaking to me because I will not respond. I will be too busy averting my eyes, looking for a route away from you, and hunching over to look smaller. Don't take it personal. It's just what I have to do to survive running while male.