Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Frithy Old Guy Resumes Running

Keeping obscure words and concepts alive, one essay at a time.  What follows is the end-result of a class assignment given to my advanced composition class.  The assignment was to write a humorous, satirical, or contrarian essay.  I wrote this paper as they wrote theirs.  Works Cited page and in-text citations are available upon request.

The Frithy Old Guy Resumes Running
Once upon a time I was a runner – two miles a day, every day, for six years or so.  Some days I would do more.  Once in a while I would just run, keeping track of neither distance nor time.  Being the hyper-competitor, in all the years I never signed up for a real race.  What exactly is it about paying an entry fee and standing around with people in $200 shoes that makes a race more real?  I never did get that and it never interfered with me enjoying a nice run. 
Then life…work…kids…Chili Cheese Fritos…  I would run again for short periods – a month here, a month there; nothing like before and mostly to prove I could still do it.  And, I could.  Fast forward to the mid-forties.  Life, work, and the Chili Cheese Fritos rolled along.  Thankfully, and I mean this is the nicest possible way, the only thing I didn’t have was more kids.
Maybe that sounds ugly?  Look, I love them (my children even more than the Fritos).  I really do.  See, I’m typing with one hand and patting one of the spawn on the head right now. They really like it when I scratch behind their ears.  Watch, one of her legs is going to start hopping up and down.  I feed and water my children every day, just like I’m supposed to.  I do stuff for them, all the time.
For example, daughter #1 is going to a Naval Academy camp in Annapolis this summer.  There are physical fitness requirements she has to meet.  One of the requirements involves running two miles in a certain timeframe.  Long story short, I have agreed to run a 5K with her.  That’s 3.1 miles, but a 3.1M doesn’t sound as cool as a 5K.  This will require some preparation.
First time out, I take it easy.  There are repercussions.  Note to self #1a:  Stop running in blue-jeans.  I’m not in Missouri any longer.  Note to self #1b:  My daughters still care what the neighbors think.  Note to self #2:  I have man-boobs; petite, a-cups.  They’re a little tender at the end of two miles and, no, I will not flop one out, pervert.  Note to self #3:  this hurts.  Note to self #4:  the apocalypse is going to be hard.
There is such a thing as muscle memory.  Mine seem to have mild cognitive impairment / borderline Alzheimer’s.  Five days into training I did a time trial.  I ran a fifteen minute mile and then a seventeen minute mile.  Not so good.  According to the performance calculator on, the average, local-class time for a 46-year-old man in a 5K is 28 minutes.  That means half of all 46-year-olds entered in such races finish in 28 minutes.  If I string together three fifteen-minute miles, that drops me to the thirty-first percentile.  I haven’t been in the thirty-first percentile since high-school standardized testing.
Also, little did I know, there are a butt-load of 5K races in this neck of the woods.  A cursory glance at the Illinois Valley Strider’s race schedule shows that out of seventy-two races for 2013, forty-seven of them are of the 5K variety.  Note to self #5:  I didn’t realize masochism was this popular.  Note to self #6:  There will be many spectators.  New emphasis is suddenly given to time.
My observation is that the runner with the stopwatch is one of the more hunted looking of creatures.  These are the dark-eyed souls, Auschwitz thin, staring vacantly not at a finish line, but at the horror of finishing, though never well enough.  Suddenly, I’m Frodo under the burning eye of Sauron’s stopwatch.  My apoplectic pituitary squirts adrenal like an inner-city fire hydrant opened in the middle of August, and I’m not even wearing running shoes right now.
A part of me doesn’t want to do this, including my legs and lungs.  I’m not really talking about the running.  That, I don’t mind.  I’ve always enjoyed running, except for those times when I didn’t.  The three point one miles isn’t that daunting.  It’s not like I’m going to mess my spandex and collapse at the finish line like Joan Benoit in the ’84 Olympics.  At least I don’t think I will.  Rather, the dislike I’m describing is deeper than that.  Dislike has to be pretty deep to surpass crapping one’s spandex.  Don’t ask me how I know this.
To be honest (because everything written thus far is a pack of lies), this is a personal problem on my end.  Of the estimated eight thousand runners participating in this race, many of them will thrive on the competition.  These Laffy taffy shaped humanoids are going to be happier than a Biggest-Loser drop-out on double-bacon day at Golden Corral.  But instead of feasting on delicious, golden fried pork-fat, they’ll be gorging on the structure of the event, the desire to run faster than anyone else, and they’ll end well with an endorphin-infused afterglow buzzing their inner-runner’s nether parts.  Note to self #7:  add bacon to the grocery list.
I’m happy for them, really.  To each their own, it’s all good, so on, and so frith (yes, that’s a real word and a great way to recover from what otherwise would be a typo in the title).  Right about now I am not feeling very frithy at all.  Consider from, “On the Meaning of Frith,”:
Frith is often translated as "peace". The full meaning of frith encompasses peace but extends well beyond it, to cover a large portion of the most meaningful and essential foundations of human social life, especially as it is lived in more “traditional” societies.  A full understanding of the concept of frith will show that “peace” is not identical to frith; rather, peace as we understand it is generally an outgrowth of frith, resulting from the conditions of frith being met.
In other words, this particular endeavor feels to be more about frothing at the mouth than frithing in the soul.  Not to get all late-middle-English, but I’m having difficulty feeling the frith in my running, probably because the wrist-watch keeps gnawing my hand.  In fact, the concept of a structured race is ruining a perfectly good way of getting back in shape and relaxing at my own pace at the end of a particularly stressful day.  It makes me want to scream, “Frith you!” at the universe.
Note to self #8:  calm down big fella.  There’s more to frith that meets the eyes.  Remember, peace is a natural outgrowth of frith, and who doesn’t like a good natural outgrowth?  Maybe I’m just not there yet.  This brings me back to daughter #1.  She needs this more than I do.  Alas…  Hodge goes on to explain, “The idea of frith is very closely tied to kinship…it describes the essence of the relationship itself: the joys, responsibilities, interdependence, burdens, and benefits that characterized it.”
Now that right there…that’s what it is.  I’m at the responsibilities and burdens part, still waiting for the joys and benefits.  Something tells me I may be waiting a while.  Maybe, a handful of decades in the future, when my aged-self is walker-bound and I can no longer lift the cup of Metamucil to my trembling chin, the elder child will pay the frith forward, build an additional bedroom onto her house, and remember the dear father who ruined the remaining cartilage in his knees that time she wanted to get into the naval academy.  Who knows?
          Besides, it doesn't matter.  I'm all in at this point, barring a coronary.  The entry fee has been paid and the t-shirt has been received.  My first-ever runner's number awaits the safety-pins.  Speaking of which, maybe I should look into some type of diaper.

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