So What Do You Think About...?

“So what do you think about the whole time?”

It’s inevitable. Whenever the topic of long runs and daily mileage finds its way into a conversation, “the question” is soon to follow. 

Long Run“Don’t you get bored? I would get so bored.”

I don’t mind. I kinda get it. I mean, half the time after finishing up a twenty-mile run, I’ll wonder, What did I think about the whole time?

I’m sure I could get bored very easily, but there is always just enough variety and distraction to keep me preoccupied. Running buddies are the ultimate vaccination against boredom. Other times I listen to music—or talk radio, just so I can get all worked up about a topic and finish the run and grab my phone the moment I get back to my car and call the radio station and voice my I’ve-had-ten-miles-to-think-about-this opinion on the air.

You’re darn right I’ve actually done that. And I was caller of the day.

It just depends on the run, the pace, my mood, and whether or not I’m listening to NPR. You know. All that jazz. 

“Yeah, but like, what do you think about?”

Relentless. 

Guys. This is a loaded question. Anytime you ask someone who spends vast amounts of time alone what they think about, you’re opening a Pandora’s box. Heck, you’re opening a Pandora’s warehouse. And then I am faced with a dilemma: Do I tell them something normal? Or do I tell them the truth?

I think we all know the verdict.

The truth is I am pretty good at entertaining myself during long periods of solitude. (Some would say suspiciously good.) No matter how long the run, I’m rarely at a loss for amusement. Often I find myself breaking into laughter, even when I’m running alone (which doesn’t help with the whole “suspicious” thing). 

Does anyone else have this problem gift?

Imagine everything Reader’s Digest decided not to publish. That is my brain. Now realize that I am easily amused. Folks, what you have is an ideal combination for distance running and a terrible situation for appearing sane. 

I’d like to say that I can solve the world’s problems during a five-mile run, but the catch is that solving problems requires a modicum of intentional focus. And focus isn’t necessarily my forte.

I once ran twelve (yes, twelve) mile repeats to the “Fillet O’ Fish” jingle. And I only know the chorus.

I once went for a run to figure out what I was going to do about a job opportunity and ended up creating a runner’s version of the “Dos Equis” guy:

She wins first place in every age group.

She clears the way for the lead vehicle.

When she races, she hands water to the volunteers. 

Her singlet has sleeves.

She is the Most Interesting Runner in the World. 

Wait… What career decision?

I once squeezed in a run before a wedding, figuring I’d brainstorm a gift idea while I ran and pick up the gift on my way to the reception. (Wedding presents aren’t my forte either.) Instead, I somehow began speculating exactly how many people will come to my funeral—whenever that event occurs. I thought about all the funerals I’ve been to—and I’ve been to some big ones, you know, with lines out the door—and I began to worry that I wouldn’t have lines out the door for my funeral. I then spent the next six miles feeling dismayed and competitive.

It will be so embarrassing if no one comes to my funeral! What if I only have, like, two vases of flowers? That would look terrible. And what if there are only really unflattering photos of me on my memory corkboard? I’m going to have the worst funeral ever.

I came home from the run and secured a “Corkboard Pact” with my sister, which effectively prohibits unflattering photos from being allowed on the corkboard and allows us to flag good pictures as “corkboard worthy.”

I’m not proud of it. I’m just tellin’ it like it is.

Many times I’m wholly amused by what I see while I’m running. For instance, the other day was apparently “Skinny Versions of Famous People” Day at Forest Park. I am thrilled to announce I saw skinny runner replicas of Will Ferrell, Santa Claus, and Nelson Mandela. Fu ManchuAnd then there was a guy who was sporting split shorts and an amazing Fu Manchu. He looked very much like he existed solely on espresso and the dream of owning a modern art gallery. He was awesome and I wanted to be his friend.

And once I had prolonged encounter with a rollerblader. He was quite adept at his recreation of choice, and he decided to exercise his freewheeling skills by rollerblading backwards just ahead of me. We got to stare at each for, like, a quarter of a mile. It was so terrifically awkward. 

I can’t even.

Then there are runs when I’m not thinking about anything at all and, out of nowhere, I’ll be struck with a profound truth: 

Zucchini sounds like a mini version of a larger squash.

If I were a country singer, my stage name would be Petty Cash.

Light bulb” should be one word.

The universe is filled with epiphanies. Oh, and jokes.

Did you hear about the two antennas that got married? The wedding was terrible, but the reception was great.

Boom.

I suffer a lot of things when I run, but boredom isn’t one of them. I spend enough time acting normal. Normal is boring.

May your miles be weird, folks.


Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story.  Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.

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