For anyone interested, here’s an excerpt from the book I’m working on. Yes, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to “It still does its job, but it looks stupid.” Enjoy. Feel free to send me some feedback and share this with any runner friends who might appreciate it.
There are individuals in this world who are idiots. They never follow through on commitments. You can’t count on them. They seem to live their lives in constant states of drama, excuses, and annoyance. These people can’t be trusted. When these people say something like, “Hey, I’m going to [insert name of some adventure]. Are you interested?” You reply, “No, thank you. I’d rather not end up alone, dead, or miserable.” You avoid adventures with these people because you know that, even if you succeed, somehow and someway you’ll end up miserable.
Fortunately, there are other individuals who are the opposite of the idiots. They’re generally wonderful. They follow through on commitments even if it costs them dearly. They can be trusted. When these people say something like, “Hey, I’m going to [insert name of some adventure]. Are you interested?” You blurt out, “Yes! I’m in! Wait, what was the question? What are we doing? Never mind. It doesn’t matter. Let’s go!” You go on adventures with these people because you know that, even if you fail, somehow and someway you’ll end up having a ton of fun. In 2017 a good friend of mine—who happens to be one of these good people—asked if I would be interested in running a marathon with him.
“I’m in!” I replied, without giving it a second thought.
The first week of training was a blast. I researched. I found a training plan on the internet. I bought some sweet Hoka shoes. I bought 9 different flavors of gel packs, a bottle of electrolyte pills, and some Gatorade. I started a 3-month trial of Apple Music and created an awesome playlist consisting primarily of songs recorded prior to 1998. Michael Jackson. Tupac. Outkast. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Metallica. AC/DC. Nostalgia was my guide. If you tossed a CD in a fire at a church youth rally in the mid-90’s, I probably had at least one song from said CD on my playlist. After work, I ran 2-4 miles per day. Running was a relaxing diversion from the day-to-day grind. This was going to be great!
Then, weeks 2 through 30 came. As it turns out, training plans for marathons require you to run a lot more than 2-4 miles per day. A. Lot. More. Within a week I had tried all 9 gel pack flavors—all of them tasted like disappointment. A couple days later, I exhausted my supply of Gatorade and was too cheap frugal to spend money to buy more of the stuff. As if to add insult to injury, my music selection wasn’t making me happy anymore. As it turns out, there was a reason youth pastors across America were encouraging people to toss CDs into bonfires. Tupac, while a lyrical genius, was quite a potty mouth. I cancelled my Apple Music subscription and went back to my pre-training listening regimen of sermons and audiobooks. No, they weren’t as fun to run to, but I felt as though I was no longer disappointing Jesus.
Now that I was no longer propelled forward by expletive-infused tunes with catchy beats, my increasingly longer training runs were growing increasingly boring. In an effort to break up the monotony, I took to using my Nike app and GPS to run in shapes. Apparently, this is a thing that other people do as well (Google “running in shapes” for some creative examples). First, I ran my route in the shape of a guy who had collapsed on the ground. It was a work of GPS art imitating life…or something. I ran the same route many more times, adding accessories to my GPS man: a hat one day, a kite another, and a failed attempt at a soccer ball another.
A couple weeks later, I mapped out a way to run in the shape of GPS man playing with a yo-yo. It would require me to run across a large, undeveloped lot in the neighborhood, and this would be an added bonus (running on paved roads gets old). Unfortunately, my GPS yo-yo man run was ill-timed. As I was running the path that would create yo-yo string line from the yo-yo back up to the yo-yo guy’s hand, a sheriff’s SUV hopped the curb about a hundred yards away and sped toward me with his lights flashing. Uh oh. A number of thoughts quickly crossed my mind.
“Is it illegal to run across this undeveloped land?”
“Am I trespassing?”
“This is totally going to mess up all of my GPS hard work.”
I stopped mid-stride, walked toward the oncoming SUV, took out my ear buds, and watched as the driver abruptly stopped and jumped out of his car to come at me.
“What are you up to out here?” he asked.
My eyes darted up and to the left as I pondered the absurdity of the answer I, a grown man, was about to give to an officer of the law: “Well, you see, sir. I was running in the shape of a guy playing with a yo-yo. I had to leave the pavement over there and run through this here field because this is where the string to the yo-yo goes.”
It was too much. It was too embarrassing. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words I was thinking. I responded, “I was out for a run.”
“Which direction did you come from?” he replied.
“The little circle drive that formed my yo-yo, right over there.” I thought. But, I replied [pointing north] “that neighborhood over there.”
“Ok. We’re looking for a suspect in the area. Have you seen anyone?” he asked.
Phew. I suppose that the description of the suspect had not matched that of myself.
I told him that no, sorry, I hadn’t seen anyone. I did not tell him that the reason I had not seen anyone is because I was solely focused on running the correct path for GPS yo-yo man. In any case, once the kind officer had decided that I was not the suspect he was looking for, he hopped back in his SUV and sped off. I was free. Unfortunately, my app paused during my conversation with the officer and the encounter totally messed up my yo-yo string. I was able to successfully complete yo-yo man the next day on March 6 without any interference from the law.
If you’d like to see the fella they were after, Google “narcotics bust Amarillo March 5, 2018.” If you look closely, you see the unfortunate match of the street of the house the man escaped from and yo-yo man’s right leg. What are the odds?
The remaining weeks of my training regimen proved to be devoid of criminal interference, but, to this day I am still a bit jumpy when I run through plots of undeveloped land. Then, at long last, race day arrived. I felt ready.
The first 19 miles were actually pretty great. I felt fine. I had plenty of energy. I had read about the “20-mile wall” that runners hit but was beginning to believe it to be a myth. At mile 19, I thought, “This is great! I should have run at a bit faster pace. I guess I’m not going to hit that wall everyone talks about.”
Then, just after mile 20, something changed. Bam. Wall. My brain was like, “Ok, body, you’re exhausted. Let’s slow down the pace, change to some upbeat music, and finish this thing.” My body was like, “Nah, better not. I’m done now. Brain stupid.” With bursts of starts and stops, I walk-jogged the last 6 miles before using the last of my energy to run across the finish line.
An overly eager race volunteer congratulated me on finishing and offered me a celebratory hamburger. Rather than accepting the burger, I proceeded to stagger a few more steps, collapse onto the pavement, writhe around in agony, and guzzle a couple bottles of Powerade. With the help of my wife, I was finally able to drag myself to the first aid tent where a couple of volunteers repeatedly stabbed my calves and thighs with tiny knives. In hindsight, they may have been massaging my legs. I can’t be sure. I was a bit delirious. As a husband, there are moments in your married life when your wife gazes upon you with pride, longing, and bit of lust. This was not one of those moments. She had given birth six times and handled all six births infinitely better than I was handling one road race. We both knew it. I had finished the marathon, but I looked stupid.
This summer, our family spent a few weeks in Kenya working with some of our favorite people and one of our favorite organizations, Christian Relief Fund. Our hotel was in the city of Eldoret. Eldoret is home to the Kenyan Olympic training center and, thus, some of the best runners in the world. It feels as though every Kenyan in the area is a born runner. One evening, we found ourselves sitting around the dinner table when the topic of running came up.
“Are you a runner?” one of our Kenyan friends asked.
Knowing my audience, I answered proudly, but cautiously, “Well, I did run my first and only marathon a few weeks ago.”
“Really? What was your time?” another of our Kenyan friends replied.
“About 4 hours.” I said, reasonably proudly.
Both of my Kenyan friends immediately and simultaneously burst into laughter, as if each knew what the other was thinking. “Oh. You’re not a runner! Kenyans can run it in half that time!”
We all shared a good laugh over my marathon story. The moral of the story: Josh Wood = not a runner.
There you have it. If you would like to read the rest of the book, including the rest of chapter 4, sign up below to be notified when it’s ready. Thanks!