I haven’t been working out like I should but I’ve managed to get to the Y twice this week and it feels good to run and run hard, again. Monday made me sore as hell and I nearly skipped out on today but made myself go. Back when I was in the Army a man had to run two miles in seventeen minutes to pass the physical every year. Seven point one miles an hour comes out to a mile every eight minutes and twenty-seven seconds. I find my rhythm and settle in to run at this pace for thirty minutes.
There’s a very large person on a treadmill to my left and a couple of machine ahead of me, across the room. People this large ought not to try to run hard or fast because they aren’t built for it, and whoever this might be, they are running about half my pace. I’ve seen this before in here, they come in waves about twice a year; January and May. New Year’s Resolution people and Pool People. They last about a month or so before finally giving up. Most treat exercise as if it’s something they pay for and someone else delivers the goods. Pay and then have to do all the work yourself? Yes, it’s a DIY project that you have to do yourself.
The large person isn’t just large, no, there are a lot of large people everywhere, but this person is odd for a couple of reasons. One, try as I might, I can’t figure out if this is a guy or a girl. No, really, it’s a mystery. There isn’t a single defining characteristic hung on this person as far as gender goes. The other thing is the hair. There is a mop of curly golden red hair perched on this person’s head and it’s a curly curly curly, thing the color of a sunset or an acid trip. When Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit” this is the type of hair he had in mind for that race. It looks to be natural, actually.
The first mile goes by and I’m watching the Braves lose on the television and watching the Golden Red Hobbit pound out the miles, too. That pace is just a shade above a fast walk but this is a big person and big people aren’t built for long distance running. There’s this odd disconnect people have when it comes to running; it’s supposed to cure all health ills. It’s supposed to help you lose weight and that is true, if you do it right, but it is also hard on a body if it is overdone. I think the Golden Red Hobbit is overdoing it. His back? Her back? Is covered in sweat but this person slogs on. The Braves are losing but I’m watching the Golden Red Hobbit. Mile Two passes and now I’m going to a 5K at seven one. The Golden Red Hobbit plods along and I wonder what drives this person.
I’ve met women who were tall and anything but petite but the fashion mags and the fitness videos all show skinny women with perfect bodies exercising effortlessly. All the movies have these women in them and the prom industry has a neverending supply of skinny women with great implants and the reality of it is none of this exists in reality. But the pressure on women not to look like a Golden Red Hobbit is intense. Women are not supposed to be round or curvy because advertising, billions of dollars’ worth of advertising tells us so. This could be some woman’s attempt at natural photoshopping, changing her body with exercise but she will fail. Genetics cannot be outrun. Her best bet would be to get into cross training and if she’s going to have a large body have all of it toned up. It would matter a bit how she looked as long as it helped her stay healthy. That is what exercise is about, isn’t it?
But what if this is a guy? He’s way overweight and he has that mop of stuff on his head and he’s not very athletic, is he? My 5K comes and goes and now I’m pushing for four but I think I won’t make it. The Golden Red Hobbit slows to a fast walk and heaves and puffs. The tiny bottle of water is soon gone. But he or she doesn’t give up and doesn’t stop. At three and a half miles I have to stop running and slow to a four mile an hour walk. The Golden Red Hobbit stop and leans over the machine as if there is some crime to not going on.
This is a human being who will never fit into a smaller world. The computer generated world blasted at our senses day and night, twenty-four seven, never shows someone that looks like a Golden Red Hobbit in a positive light. There are no glamourous clothes for these people, there are no movie role models, and there are no sports figures who look like Golden Red Hobbits. Change may come but the mold the fits only a very few. The rest of us are the backwash of those who are size zero or who will never have rippling muscles.
The moment I have been waiting for arrives. The Golden Red Hobbit towels off and lumbers away from the machine. I’ve a ways to go still. I want to put another couple of miles or so in before I quit. Like the Golden Red Hobbit, I have a disability. I am over fifty. People my age are over the hill, ancient to the young and beautiful, but I know better than to try to outrace time. I can only keep my own machine going as well as I can.
The Golden Red Hobbit walks slowly past me and I say, “Good run” and still, I cannot tell who this person is by gender. Those might be male or female breast, for one painfully small and for the other terribly large, the face is round and very red. The body is heavy but it will always be heavy; this will never be a stick figure.
A very pretty very young woman comes in and takes over the machine vacated by the Golden Red Hobbit. I hope she will do it justice. I shut down and turn to leave, and I wonder, wherever the person is, whoever that person is, have I done right by the Golden Red Hobbit, here?