© 2015 Jack Woodville London
“That’s no good,” he said. “You have to stretch the ITB to open up the adductor magnus and gastrocnemius. They’re key to glycogen replacement.” He demonstrated, then smiled knowingly while I tried to follow. “And don’t bounce. Posers bounce.”
I put one heel on the picnic bench and set my back foot on the ground, then leaned to stretch my leg muscles, whatever they might be called. He turned his head away.
“Okay, the goal is to maintain HR at around 150, building to 175. At 220 minus — how old are you? Forty. Right, today’s the big day. Okay, 220 minus 40, we’ll say 180.” He looked at me and the corners of his mouth curled. “We’re aiming for VO2 max over 140,” he continued. I must have looked stumped. He showed me his watch, reminiscent of the instrument panel of a 747. “Your oxygen consumption. You should have one of these. It also gives you GCT, cadence, and vertical oscillation. Do you pronate?”
I didn’t know.
“You look like a pronator. Your shoes okay?” His mock concern targeted my cheap New Balances, clunky cousins of his orange Mizuno Waves. He jogged to the edge of the parking lot, then stopped and glared at my feet. “And re-do your laces. Let me show you.” He sat me down on the pavement and re-tied my shoes. I hated my sister for marrying him.
“Now, keep up. We’ll just do some easy hills, maybe a fartlek or two at a 7:30 pace, then speed up. No more than eight miles.” He took off and soon disappeared over the crest of the country lane. I didn’t see him again for over an hour.
I jogged along, the sun beaming down on a cloudless day. The last of the spring flowers were a blur of blues and reds, plumbagos and poppies creeping up through thick green wheat fields. In the distance a red barn stood on a knoll, sentinel to a herd of grazing milk cows. A ribbon of trees marked a stream that separated meadows from fruit orchards where pink blossoms floated in the branches. I estimated my HR at no more than a hundred or so, my VO2 equal to the stress zone of a quiet child painting with watercolors. My ground contact, cadence, and vertical oscillation befitted a leisurely afternoon in the country. I heard the barking of a dog.
At the crest of the next hill I looked down onto a farmstead, a dilapidated house and barn and a struggling vegetable garden shaded by untended elms. The huge, frenzied hound, of a breed known to runners as a ‘BFD,’ barked and jumped upward from the base of an elm tree, snapping at a long pink leg that dangled nervously from the branches. A chewed orange Mizuno Wave lay at the beast’s paws. Sensing grave danger, I found a dirt path that led around behind the farm and barn, into the field on the other side, then back to the lane. The detour took no more than five minutes and, soon, the barking was well behind me. My HR returned to no more than a hundred and five and, without a single fartlek to disrupt my glycogen stores, I jogged slowly back to the pub.
I was having a second pint when I heard the unmistakable racket of an internal combustion engine in need of a muffler. A cloud of diesel fumes cloaked an ancient pickup driving down toward me from the hill a hundred yards away. It rattled to a stop and Harry got out of the passenger-side door, hobbling along with a Mizuno on one foot and the other in his hand. He slammed the door and the truck roared away in a cloud of dust.
“I said to keep up,” he snapped. “Did you give up and turn around?” He scowled in the direction of the server until she brought him a pint. “You’ll never be a runner if you don’t try to keep up.” He looked at his super watch to validate his GPS track. There were red welts on his ankles. One sock was missing.
“I’m just not as good as you,” I conceded. He nodded. “We’re a bit late so I need to drink up and go.”
“What’s the rush?”
“It’s my birthday, remember? I’m off to pick out my present.” I rose to leave. “In time for dinner, remember? Cake and ice cream?”
“Then go pick yourself some better shoes,” he sneered. “Or a Timex GPS, with GCT.” He leaned his back against the picnic table to clarify that as a superior runner his advice should be taken. I let him down.
“No, not today. I was going to go look for one of those runner’s watches, just like yours,” I answered, “but not this time.” I finished my pint and stood up to say goodbye.
“Then get something you need,” he smirked. “You’re too old to buy yourself things you want.”
“No worries,” I answered. “I’m doing both. In fact, you’ve inspired me.” I paused. “I’m going to give myself a BFD.”