My husband and I go running together several times a week. We’re not fast and we’re not agile, but we do keep going. Over the years, we’ve come to recognise the various people you meet when you run. They’re not always the exact same people, but there are a few familiar types:
Don’t Worry, He’s Harmless
This is an earnest dog lover who has to shout above the sound of her slavering, snarling ragebeast who is expressing his harmlessness by opening his mouth so wide, you can see inside his tail. Don’t worry! Why would we worry! Why should you even consider putting such an animal on a leash, when really it’s the rest of the world that is being silly and mean by worrying! Coincidentally, on days when we meet Don’t Worry He’s Harmless, we always make the best time.
O to be young!
A deeply tanned, deeply wrinkled woman in baggy jeans and a sassy t-shirt who spends her mornings toddling through the dappled sunlight, beaming at trees. When she comes within hailing distance, she stops, throws her head back and her arms out, and croaks, “O to be young!” Then stands there with her mouth open and an expectant smile on her face. I have no idea what to say to this, so I usually say, “Oh ho ho, ha ha!” and keep running. One time she didn’t say it, and I felt so old.
Don’t Look At Me In the Eyes
We met DLAMIE a lot more often when we used to run through the park behind the housing projects. DLAMIE seems to be an independent businessman of some kind, and is clearly on his way to meet a client, and would prefer not to be looked at in the eyes, which we do not.
The Grim Slogger
Someone has made some kind of promise or resolve, and they are going to see it through if it kills them. And it will. A salute, fellow traveller on the sweaty road to doom.
The Much Fitter Couple
They’re not even sweaty, and they’ve achieved that hypnotic, elastic, synchronized stride just like in Nike commercials. This will never, ever be us, because my husband is a full foot taller than me and is prone to bursitis, and I have a bad hip and, as someone I have since murdered once phrased it, “sturdy peasant calves,” and am prone to throwing up. Anyway, there they go, zip zip, and now we see their tight little bums as they pass. Enjoy being awesome. I bet they’re terrible in bed.
The Even Fatter Couple
Not really sure when to make eye contact, but one of them is going to be cheery and friendly, and one of them is going to give us a brief, dire stare that all but screams, “This was not my idea.”
The Baby Train
A couple of gazelle-shaped moms who go on a daily run with their kids. Their candy-colored visors are on point, their frosted hair is somehow maintaining a sleekly angled bob, and they are laughing and chatting as they whoosh along with their aerodynamic triple strollers, each containing a big toddler, a little toddler, a newborn who’s so young, he’s still damp. The kids, who are squinting in the sun and bored to death, are very excited to see us, and it’s a contest to see who can keep screaming, “HI!! HI!!!” the longest after they pass us and have to return to their home planet where this is normal postpartum behavior.
Someone is truly desperate to spend time with this fellow, so he has no choice but to whiz past us without even steering a hair’s breadth out of the way. Probably he is going to the bedside of his ailing grandmother to read her to sleep, and that’s why he’s in such a hurry. Inspiring! Especially when you consider that he’s clearly an unusually virile man. You can tell he’s unusually virile because his tires are the size of refrigerators and his tailpipe is big enough to stand up inside. Sometimes, when I get my breath back after it’s been sucked out of my lungs by the vacuum of his passing, I will murmur, “Sorry about your penis.” It’s the least I can do.
The Better Part
Here is a fellow in a rusty, light-blue pick-up with one red door and one door that isn’t there at all. Narragansett cans roll and clatter around in the truck bed under a tattered canoe, and he’s headed to the lake. When he sees us running, he swerves broadly, and through his open window he extends a tanned arm and waves jauntily, leaving in his wake an overpowering smell of corn chips, dog funk, and weed and honestly what am I doing with my life.