The Art of Conversation

As the weather improves, sometimes my wife joins me while I do my ~3 mile runs. She puts on some inline skates, sprinting ahead of me and coming back to check. Last week, my friend Swem and I were jawing away for the better part of 10 miles. Normally, I just cruise along, no iPod, no company, so I haven’t spent much time talking on the run, but I just know that there are a few things I do (and a few things I don’t) want to talk about. So if you’re ever cruising around Southeast Michigan, and you catch a couple miles alongside me, let this blog post be your guide.

Things I want to talk about!

  1. How strong/fast/tough/attractive I am.
    I had a runner pass me once when I was wearing shorts in the winter, and even as he breezed past me at probably twice my pace, he commended me for being ‘more hardcore than him’. See, that’s the kind of things you say to strangers! Swem, you’re forgiven for not talking about how good I look in short-shorts, but I did appreciate all the encouraging remarks about my increasing fitness. Steph, you are expressly permitted to rollerblade behind me in a creepy fashion while making those appreciative noises. It makes me happy.
  2. The Plan.
    You know how I have a whole blog where I talk about my plan to run and to train for my next run? How I’ve got a wrist mounted computer that I’m using to track every inch of that run? Yeah, no matter how bored *you* are of my plan, I’m still excited to talk about it. As a fair trade, I’d be happy to listen to…
  3. Anything you don’t need me to respond to.
    Seriously, if you want to tell me about your knitting, your favorite memory of college, your children, your favorite foods. As long as you’re not expecting me to respond. You have to accept that when you do this you’ve essentially become an podcast I didn’t mean to download.
  4. The weather.
    Yup, that most boring of conversational refuges is perfectly acceptable to me while running. First of all, talking about the weather reminds me that I’m outside, which helps me feel more smug about all the people who are inside, and feeling smug is great. Second, I often completely shut down and ignore my surroundings, so sometimes it’s nice to be reminded to look around and enjoy. Also, it’s pretty hard to come up with something to argue about when it comes to the weather, so this is a nice safe place to start. That includes you, random passers-by; feel free to say “Nice day out” or “Cold day for a run.”.
  5. Standard Runner topics
    Having the right shoes. Liking or disliking Gu. Fear of chafing. The Wall. Negative splits. Future Races. Past Races. Hal Higdon. Heck, you can even throw in some trivia questions about the origin of fartleks. Please just keep it to things that we can agree on. If I want to argue about Vibram Five Fingers, I can go troll someone’s blog.

Things I do NOT want to talk about

  1. Politics.
    I am not all that good at faking interest in politics (progressive or conservative) to begin with. I know that it’s really important, and it almost seems like the kind of breezy thing we would chat about if we were fictional characters on an Aaron Sorkin show. But I lose the blood to my brain necessary to form coherent thoughts, so I’m as unqualified as a FOX news commentator. Leave this for when I can consume enough whisky to bellow a half-formed opinion. (Opinion is likely to be “Leave me be while I’m drinkin'”)
  2. How tired I am.
    Under no circumstances is anyone to ever ask me how tired I am, or to say that I might be tired, or to mention that I look tired. In fact, don’t even imply that I am mortal. It does not matter if I’m limping on a broken leg and clutching a knife wound in my side. Just even saying the word tired OUT LOUD where my legs or lungs might hear it during a run is grounds for summary un-friending on facebook. Particular death to the passers-by on this one, because they always check on me with concern right as I’m finishing up a long run.
  3. How me exercising makes you feel like you should too.
    Yes, random passersby, I’m glad that my suffering is inspiring to you, but I don’t really want to talk about how you *should* be running too, or how I’m making you feel bad, or how you’re heading right inside to use your treadmill. I run for myself, and so that I can inspire total strangers on the internet, not so that I can inspire total strangers on the street.
  4. Controversial Runner Topics
    This hasn’t come up yet, but I know eventually it will. Vibram Five Fingers, ‘running hurts your knees’, or the correct balance of speed work. I don’t want to argue while I’m running. I have a hard time concentrating on my own faults without having to point out all of yours.
  5. Anything that requires me to make a decision.
    I am actually spectacular about making decisions while running. But only internal ones that I don’t need to discuss with you. Miles on the road have helped me unravel all kinds of dilemma, philosophical, personal, and professional. I treasure that ability. But ask me where I want to eat dinner after the run, and I will simply snarl and snap my teeth. (translating roughly as “I want a hamburger, but instead I will eat this Vanilla Bean GU that has been warmed to 98.6 degrees by my body heat.”)

(All meant in good fun; honestly, I’m really looking forward to all the talking I get to do with my wife around, and I envision one day running fast enough that I can keep running and conversational pace with someone during a race who wants to have a rapid fire dialog about White House Budget Negotiations, Boston Qualifying standards, my five year plan, or how they started running because they saw a big guy like me cruising by their house.)

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One response to “The Art of Conversation

  1. Hey man… I have no clue what year they were from… I don’t keep tabs on it. I always thought they were blue and yellow?. To be honest, I would probably be running around in mine also if I had Boston gear..

    Cheers

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