Out for my usual (for the summer months) three-mile run this morning, and I stop to pick up the paper. “So, how was your walk?” the clerk at the drugstore asks.
“I wasn’t walking, I was running,” I huffed as I paid for the paper. And I thought to myself, it’s not the first time I’ve corrected you about this mistaken notion, buddy.
And it’s hardly the first time anyone’s ever mistaken me for a person who walks, rather than runs. When I mention to people I’ve signed up for a 5K, the first thing they usually say is “Oh, how long does it take you to walk that far?” At the race venue, people come up to me and ask me if the walkers are supposed to start in the back of the field.
In case you haven’t figured it out, I get annoyed about this stuff. It’s not that I’m an easily annoyed athletic person. It’s that I don’t look like the classic athletic person. I’m not muscular like your long-term gym rat. I’m not rail-thin like a runner. I’m not slightly hunched over like a dedicated cyclist. I don’t smell grossly of chlorine. Yet I do run, swim and bike, sometimes two of them in the same day.
Handling the incredulity of other runners, cyclists and swimmers is one thing. But try going into a store that sells athletic apparel when you look like me (think human cube fridge: solidly built, but not much in the way of streamlining for speed). Salespeople look at you like, “Uh huh. Really, Um…can’t help you. I gotta go do something else, like pick up pins from the dressing room floor.”
Mind you, I’d never give up exercise. It’s healthy, I like it and it keeps my stress at somewhat manageable levels. No one needs the respect of others to get the workout done and get satisfaction from it. But acknowledgement from one’s fellows as one of the gang is nice at any age.