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How Low Would You Go?

December 12, 2009

It was two degrees yesterday when I left the house in the morning. Definitely a running-inside day. It used to be that when the temperature approached freezing, I moved my running inside. Then I gradually began to go by the daily-high forecast and run outside even if it was slightly below freezing. Still, there was a significant number of runners on the trail. I figured there must be a magic number, lower than 32, that people use as a guideline. I ran some experiments: I counted the number of people I saw running on cold days to determine the Chicago standard for rock-bottom temperatures for running outside. At first, I only counted each person once. That was hard. Then I loosened my standards and would count the same person twice if I saw them coming and going. I reasoned that their extra effort justified the double counting. If I saw ten people, that would be a sufficient count for logging that day’s temperature under ‘proper conditions to run outside’. My threshold is now around twenty degrees, like in the Chicago school system. If it is good enough for the kids to have outdoor recess, it’s good enough for me. Street runners are very friendly on cold days. We smile at each other, wave, nod. “Look,” we ponder, “another nutjob!” You don’t get this cozy feeling at the gym. At the gym, the only friendly people are the people who don’t come there to work out. My iPod is not my friend either when I’m at the gym. The vibrations in my ear buds clash with the vibrations in the furniture and it throws my brain out of whack. Instead, I let the communal gym music enhance my experience and pump me up. I upgraded my membership to have access to the latest HD TV’s and the best shower technology. Every year I pay more and more and use it less and less. My gym membership is my insurance policy. Sort of like Tiger Woods keeping a divorce lawyer on retainer. Plus, in my neighborhood, not having a gym membership is like not shaving your legs in the winter. So yesterday I shaved my legs and went to the gym and felt very normal.

“I was watching a spelling bee / On ESPN2 / And these kids were spelling words / That don’t come naturally to me or you / Like oligarchy, solipsism, bouillabaisse, epistemology, insouciant / Onomatopoeia, syllogism, perspicacious, hypothalamus… / Well, I bet they would get stumped / If they had to spell Channukkahh,” How Do You Spell Channukkahh?, The LeeVees

Art: Emma Frost, © 2009 Erin Gallagher

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