An Ode to Running

I run for several reasons, none of which involve my health.

For one thing, running is useful when late. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that I didn’t run to. This was especially the case during a ten-day visit to Paris where I was often running to movies, from other movies. (If you’re wondering why I would be doing this during a ten-day sojourn in Paris, you should read David Sedaris’s chapter, “The City of Light in the Dark” in his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.)

For another thing, I often run for lack of teleportation. That is to say, teleportation has not been invented yet, to my knowledge, and it is sometimes unacceptable to me to think about how much time I am wasting in getting from one place to another. By running, I can speed up the interim period, and then pretend that it never existed.

Here’s why I bring this up.

There have been very few instances in which I have run somewhere when I was not ridiculed in some capacity – most commonly by some cleverer-than-thou pre-pubescent gang that always seems to be parked in the exact right position to make fun of me. I have developed a facial expression for when this happens. If it’s a simple, “Run, Forrest! Run!” that’s shouted, I won’t dignify it with a response, but if they put some effort into their wiseass mockery – as when a troupe of little fuckers actually ran after me for about a half a block – I’ll stop, turn around, and flash an expression that can only be interpreted as, “I once was your age and I know what you’re up to, but why are you outdoors? Shouldn’t you be in front of a television or game system somewhere?”

I do not run funny. Do you want to know how I know that? Because when I was in the first grade, Joe Espinoza – that’s right, of Espinoza Sports Camp fame – told me so. I’m pretty sure his exact words were, “Good hustle.” But they were preceded by a “You!” as in “You there, with the immaculate legs!” I’ve been singled out for my running abilities. I know how to run.

No, I’m pretty sure the reason that my running is the subject of such buffoonery is the same reason all running (sans spandex) is mocked.

Running is the most basic act of sincerity that there is. If walking is tantamount to having somewhere to go, then running is suggestive of having somewhere important to go, something important to do. Only serious people run, and serious people are beyond lame.

I am not a defender of the movie Forrest Gump, but I am a defender of the virtues of sincerity and seriousness. Irony has its place within this framework. For instance, I can run in a comedic manner and it will still get me to where I need to go. This is precisely what many ironists and comedians once did. Chaplin and Keaton performed a comedy of ethics; their slapstick routines usually contained a point, whether it be political or moral. Woody Allen probably qualifies here, and I would add Ali G and Larry David as well (though probably not Seinfeld).

My problem is not with irony. My problem is with blank irony – irony that is supposed to be funny in and of itself, without any perspective on things – otherwise known as the art of random. I’ve often heard this word used as a positive value to describe things: “The character in that Wes Anderson film was just so random, it was great,” as if “random” were interchangeable with “original” or “fresh.” Random is random. It has nothing to do with anything. It’s incoherent! It’s the equivalent of running in place.

If for no other reason than that, I salute the act of running. Now I have to work on rationalizing the acts of talking to oneself and air guitar, and then I can go out on the street again.

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