I can hear Patrick Stewart purring about evolution, in that I-could-whip-out-a-spine-tingling-Shakespearean-monolog-if-I-wanted-to voice. I can hear him tell me that evolution takes place slowly, over millions of years – except every now and then, evolution makes a startling leap forward.

I’m having a startling leap.

This is the evolution in my attitude towards others – which is, obviously, how we judge ourselves. (How we feel about others is an unflinching reflection of how we feel about ourselves, but leave that for later.) Evolution:

Since before the time of the dinosaurs, I looked at people running on the street or on a jogging path and I knew (I knew) that this was the kind of person who didn’t feel right in their skin until they went out and put in a few miles on the pavement. He or she was arranging their day so they’d be able to carve out this precious alone time, where they could regain a sense of connection to the world and to their own bodies. They craved that rhythm; that thud. That glide. They felt better about themselves and the world when they could just go for a run.

So of course I envied and rather hated them, in an unthinking way. Runners (to me) were “they.” Sitters were “we.” A runner found peace and joy in an activity that made me sweat and curse and look around in desperation for a cab to get me out of here. Seeing runners made me feel bad about myself.

Then – the industrial revolution: I began learning how to run with Barbara. I came to see that it mattered how your foot struck the earth beneath you, and whether your ribs popped up, and why glutes were more powerful than quads. I became fixated on the position of the hips. Do they sway? (bad) or swivel? (good)

And then I looked at people running on the street or on a jogging path and I tried to see how they were running. Was all their movement forward, or were they wasting time going from side to side? Did they look like they were enjoying themselves? What had they chosen to wear to take their run?

I didn’t hate runners then; I still envied them. But I saw them as instructional examples. Seeing runners made me feel humble.

And then last night: The huge leap in evolution.

I was driving on a dark, rainy street and, impossibly, passed some long-legged guy out for a run in a monsoon in the middle of the night. “Man,” I thought, “THAT guy must REALLY love to run. I still hate it. I do it, but I hate it.”

And here came Patrick Stewart, rolling up in my mind in his X-Men wheelchair, announcing that I was just about to make a big evolutionary leap…

“I run but I hate it,” I thought… “…and that makes me MORALLY SUPERIOR to the people who run because they love it!”

You see it, right?? Doing what is right is undeniably good (in this case, taking care of the body I’ve been ignoring for decades). There’s no downside to that.

BUT if you love to take care of your body, then it’s nowhere near as hard for you as it is for someone whose abiding skill is the ability to remain curled up in an armchair for long hours in Westeros or Narnia or London in 1812 or any of a thousand other delicious locations.

You run because you love it – you are good.

I run even though I hate it – I am good AND disciplined.


Patrick Stewart would no doubt deflate this evolutionary burst of ego. Fortunately, he’s busy at the moment doing something extremely clever. Probably Shakespeare, or boldly going where no man has gone before. So I remain pompously inflated with my own arrogance.

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PS: I haven’t run in a week; I am laid low by a cold. BUT I WILL BE BACK. Like Professor Xavier.





Sway v. Swivel


Brilliant teens at science fairs and robotic clubs would have spotted the mistake immediately. If you’re directed to build a two-legged structure that can walk across the room (a very disappointing challenge to brainy robotics types), they’d know right off that my plan was bad.

See, to get from here to there, I take a step and sway all my weight onto that foot. Then I take another step and sway the weight to the other foot. Progress is made, with the kind of hip-sway that makes a long, full skirt swing appealingly at the ankles.

But OH LORD, they cry – that Sophia Loren action is not going to win the science prize. It’s inefficient. It wastes a huge amount of energy. Its top speed is “saunter” – and we’ve got to get going faster than that.

So instead, they build a stationary pelvis with wheels on either side. The legs are linked to the wheels and rotate around like the rods on a train that drive the wheels. NO sway at all.

It’s the difference between a sway and a swivel.

To move like Barbara and other people who love to run, you have to use your obliques. The left hip moves toward the front; the right hip moves to the back. There’s now a twist in the torso. Apply the obliques to yank that baby back front and center. Power comes from the muscles running down the sides.

To move like Barbara, you have to use your glutes. The power comes not from flinging a foot forward and pulling up to it with the quads, but from pushing off the back foot with the glutes.

(I posed to Barbara that if you could do both – push with your butt and pull with your quads – you could maybe fly like the wind; she looked started and then thoughtful. An evolutionary breakthrough?!)

I feel, with this realization alone, that I have graduated from kindergarten to first grade in the running process. Of course, to watch me run – torso clamped tight in an effort to not sway at all – you’d think there was something wrong with me… but I have faith that the tiny, weak little muscles now being called into service will soon power up.

I’ma win the science fair.

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So I started out with a Google images search for “science fair.” Wow. Those are some dull images. How about kids in lab goggles? Ooh – steampunk goggles. Wait! Dr. Horrible! Yeah! It has nothing to do with running – but how adorable is this image?!