I did it! In January I set out to loose 40 LBS and run a half marathon. On June 14th I and several friends from Salem Alliance Church completed the Helvetia Half Marathon. I had an awesome time and I finished 4 minutes and 5 LBS under my goal. Apart from the weight loss and reuniting with my love of running, the amazing part of this race was running it with Erik (with a k) Williams.
Erik and I have been great friends for many years. Erik lived with Michelle and I for several months when he became the Youth Pastor at Lilburn Alliance Church in Atlanta. Erik had just finished college and he was green, wild, and full of energy. Today Erik is experienced, wild, and full of energy. Erik and I would stay up until the early morning hours and play video games, we would also laugh. Laughing has become a central theme of our friendship. We are often like two adolescent teens with bad gas, little sense and maturity and no parental supervision. Erik brings out my immaturity, plus he can talk me into anything. He talked me into trying out for Survivor, He talked me into jumping out of an airplane, and he talked me into going down a zip line backwards and jumping into the center of a lake in the middle of the winter. If he was a drug dealer I would be in deep trouble. A couple of weeks ago I tore my pectoral muscle at work. Michelle was out of town so Erik picks me up from the Emergency room. I was in major pain. It hurt to breath. Erik had me laughing so hard on the way home from the hospital that I swore I was going to throw up. The man enjoyed torturing me with laughter. The more I laughed the more pain that I felt and the funnier it became. It was a vicious circle of cause and effect.
A couple months before the half marathon Erik and I joked about him running the marathon with me. Erik hates running! Running ranked up there with going to the dentist and being audited by the IRS. To my shock one week later Erik decided to run the half marathon with me. Erik wanted to spend more time together and to do something that was of interest to me. I personally think that he just wanted to see me in running tights. Before our first run together I gave Erik a very special gift. I put it in a small gift bag and I told Erik that it was a present to welcome him into the wonderful world of running. I gave him his very own pair of vintage 1980’s running booty shorts. These shorts bring a new definition to short. Many countries have banned men’s booty shorts because well they are just scary and shouldn’t be worn in public. The booty shorts are the trade mark of Richard Simmons on Sweating to the Oldies. If you would like to induce vomiting please watch Richard jiggle around in his striped booty shorts. Nothing against Richard, he is a great guy with a big heart, but the only reason people lose weight watching his videos is because they have to run away in fear. I joked with Erik that together someday we would run in our booty shorts.
Erik’s training was sporadic as he was coping with knee pain. He pulled off a couple of long runs but he was still uncommitted to running the half marathon. One week before the race he said he would make his decision after our 10 mile long run. Erik started off the run in pain and I was sure he wasn’t going to complete the ten miles or run the half marathon. Four miles into the run Erik asked me to run ahead. My plan was to run quickly home and pick up Erik’s body in my car somewhere on our ten mile loop. I made it home and I grabbed my keys and some water and went out to find Erik. To my surprise as I turned off my street I see Erik in the final half mile of the run. I don’t know who was happier, me or Erik. I was very proud of what he had just accomplished and I was also hoping that he would now commit to the marathon. Erik was stoked after the run. He was tired and hurting but the ten mile run gave him the confidence he needed to commit to the half marathon.
The day before the race we had a pasta dinner at one of our friend’s house with those who would be running with us from our church. Erik and I had a great time joking around and enjoying the company of our running community. Erik told everyone that we would be running the race in our booty shorts. I honestly thought he was joking. I felt very comfortable in my mid thigh cut running shorts and I knew that I would feel like a total dork in my lower butt cheek cut booty shorts. The next morning to my horror Erik picks me up from the race in his tight and very revealing booty shorts. “Hey Steve where are your booty shorts?” You can’t be serious, can you? Think of the poor people who must run behind us. Think of the innocent children. Think of the race photos. As I mentioned earlier Erik can talk me into anything, so on the way to the race I change into my “I’m a big idiot” running shorts. When you wear something that makes grown men blush, the only way you can pull it off is by exuding confidence and fully embracing the humor and horror that men’s booty shorts endow. If you know Erik Williams he was born for such greatness. Me, however, I would need to summon up great inner strength to be able to throw decency and propriety from self conscious personality. As I shed my running shell to reveal to the public my private assets, I did so with confidence and sense of humor. To be honest with you it was strangely exhilarating and freeing. I had forgotten about the many miles of pain that lie ahead of me and I just started having fun joking about our booty shorts. Erik and I ran the first eight miles together, side by side, four cheeks hanging out in stride. We had so much fun. I soon forgot about my lack of apparel and I ran a great race. I was very proud of Erik. He had finished his first distance race and even wanted to run another race in September. I often think about the poor souls who ran behind us. What were they thinking of such a grizzly sight? Did they seek out professional counseling after the race? As for the Booty Short Twins, you never know, perhaps you might see us running down a road in your neighborhood, and maybe you may put on a pair of your own vintage booty wear and join us for a couple of miles.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The person who invented the fast food play structure owned hamsters. He thought to himself “My hamster Fur Ball is the happiest creature I know. He plays, eats, sleeps, exercises and goes to the bathroom in his hamster habitat. I think I could make millions of children just as happy if I made a home for them just like Fur Ball’s.” Thirty years later children play, eat, exercise and in some cases go to the bathroom in their favorite Fur Ball habitats. Early fast food play structures even had a huge water bottle at the top and a giant hamster running wheel on the bottom until parents complained that their children smelled like cedar chips and loved being scratched behind their ears.
Before I was a parent I have to admit that I secretly wanted to go on a fast food play structure. I grew up in the pre-play structure era of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Our playgrounds were made of steal and concrete. Our playgrounds were tough, unforgiving and highly dangerous. The inventor of my childhood playground didn’t own a hamster, he ate them as appetizers. My playground was so tough that my parents used to punish us by sending us kids there for time outs. There were only four pieces to every playground. A huge metal swing set with metal chains, metal monkey bars, a hard wood plank seesaw, and a metal merry ground (AKA the disc of death). We also had little to no parental supervision. Neighborhoods were safe and the kids ran free. The combination of metal, concrete, and no supervision was the result of many of my childhood injuries. Needles to say I was curious about these new fast food play structures and I wanted to someday invade this new children’s sanctuary.
So as I said in my last blog, I hear a cry of distress. My son Noah is crying for help somewhere in the upper regions of hampsterville. I’m now forced to enter this unwelcoming world. There is good reason why the rules for these play structures clearly state no adults allowed. The first is that once you are on the inside, chances are you will never want your child to be also. The second reason is that for the average adult it is much like stuffing yourself through a sausage casing. These things were not designed to be ergonomically spacious. Children fly through these structures like a pinball with a purpose; adults travel through these things like a slug being chased by a salt shaker. I enter into the structure to be greeted by the unwelcoming stares of children who on the outside of this play structure lovingly obey their elders but on the inside of this maze the tables are turned. I’m now invading their world. “Hey what is that old guy doing in here?” “No old people aloud.” I felt like a pork chop at Passover. My knees throbbed in pain and my back screamed for freedom from the confined quarters. I focused on my son’s cries somewhere above my head and forced myself onward. When I reached the greasy tube that would lead upwards to my child’s sobs I looked behind me to realize that I was the cause of an inpatient traffic jam of angry children. I gathered my courage and grabbed hold of the rope and began the ascent upward. The traffic jam behind me seized the opportunity and used me as an unwilling staircase to world above. I felt like a Sunday driver in the passing lane during rush hour. Children were literally riding my bumper. I finally managed to make it to the top. The unfortunate part of this reality is that heat rises as do bad smells. The two companions held me close as I worked my way through the second story maze. The good news is my son was no longer crying. The bad news was that I couldn’t find him. I searched through every hamster corridor and in all of the hamster bubble forts. I was drenched in sweat as I made my way to the last bubble fort and looked out the window. My knees and my back were screaming in pain. I was determined. I was driven by love and I would not be deterred from my mission. My wife and my son wave hi as my son is sitting at the table playing with his happy toy. Extremely embarrassed I slide down the greasy twisty slide to be welcomed by the stares of miserable parents and my laughing bride.