Ladies, feeling a bit of a five-o-clock shadow? Then stop running!
From time to time over the course of my thirty years of running, I’ve found that some people just cannot wait to let me know how inherently dangerous running is. Typically, however, these people are unable to announce their warnings as quickly as they’d like since they are often delayed by such things as a slow-moving line at the McDonald’s drive-thru or an interminable wait for their blood pressure meds at Walgreens. Nonetheless, they are determined to impart their pearls of sedentary wisdom. So here I present the Top Five Horrible Things That Can Happen to You If You Run list. The list goes from mildly unsettling (#5) to truly abominable (#1).
To apreciate this list fully, please bear in mind that I am not making this up. All these things have really been communicated to me (some many times) by well-meaning friends and relatives in an effort to save me from running:
5) “You’ll injure yourself during a run and no one will ever find you.” The melodrama here is touching. Still, to be fair, I did actually partially rupture my achilles one time on a ten-mile run….(horror film music in minor key)… alone! The words of this warning echoed eerily in my head …”no one will ever find you…find you…find you.., as I limped along, the wind whistling through the desolate alpine mountainside and a winter storm nipping at my injured heel. Somewhere amidst the dark trees, a wolf howled and I…. Wait a minute. This was a scene from “Lassie.” I was on West End Ave. and took a cab.
4) “You’ll get mugged.” It’s amazing how many thieves are looking to incorporate a tempo run with a robbery. I’m sure this has happened, but come on! Who carries anything worth stealing while on a run anyway? This was a favorite warning of a great-aunt who lived up near Scranton, PA. In her mind, any young woman who did anything more daring than playing pinochle was just asking to have her purse snatched away. In ’94 I mentioned to my aunt that I didn’t even own a purse. This gave her something new to worry about.
3) “You’ll destroy your knees.” Please. True, my knees sound like an industrial cheese grater when I walk up stairs, but they can carry me through a marathon and still have enough strength to maintain my balance after I drink 4 beers at the finish line. Knees get stronger through running, not weaker, Beavis. But the “My knees just couldn’t take it any longer!” is still the preferred excuse of lame asses and current presidents (not that those two categories are mutually exclusive).
2) “Your reproductive organs will collapse.” Most recently, I heard this from a coworker who was shoveling a third Krispy Kreme into her mouth at the time. “You can just kiss yer uterus goodbye,” were her exact words when she overheard that I had run a marathon. Aside from that being a really lovely visual, it is one of the more bizarre fears of non-runners. I’ve been warned of this pending internal feminine collapse on and off for decades (always from other women, I should add). At least it’s nice to know that if and when I want a hysterectomy, all I have to do is crank up my racing distance to an ultra.
1) “You’ll grow a beard.” Yes, really. I had a roommate years ago who was certain that excessive running (“excessive” to her meant more than 3 miles a week) led to increased testosterone production in women. This, in turn, would lead to such terrifying aberations as larger muscles, a deeper voice, and a beard. Pointing out the myriad female distance runners who had miraculously avoided looking like Fidel Castro did not dissuade her. When I topped out at 40 miles one week, I could see her eyeballing me suspiciously. Eventually, I bought some Old Spice and a shaving mug just to freak her out.