Every once in a while, when I accidentally for-who-knows-what-reason mention at a cocktail party that I just went for an easy 8-mile run, someone might stare at me blankly for a moment with just a hint of ire, and then ask huffily, “What do you think about for all those hours?” (“All those hours”! Laughter!!) I typically reply that I simply have no idea, that running is a form of meditative cleansing of the thought processes, a welcome infusion of tabula rasa, if you will, into the otherwise chaotic perplexity of the… Well, at this point, as you might imagine, the person has typically either nodded off or numbly ambled away in search of an IV connected to a vat of gin.
It’s pleasantly pompous to tell ourselves that our brains are refreshingly blank during a run, but let’s face it: Our brains swell up to three times their normal size during our joggettes. Fairly simple and innocuous topics suddenly multiply madcap fashion into endless threads and mazes of utterly useless and pointless and, more often than not, disgusting ponderings. When running with others, we often find ourselves revealing extreme TMI tidbits (admit it!) that we suddenly feel compelled to explore beyond all reason. This, in turn, gives way to entirely new universes of questionable topics that you and your running pals are super eager to delve into.
Oh, it starts blandly enough. For example, just last weekend, I was on a run with The Bitches when Cheryl cheerfully mentioned that the next day was her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Since this was only a few miles into the run and nobody’s brain had transmogrified yet, everyone was all, “Sweet!” and “Well, bless their hearts,” and “My goodness. Half a century!” And yet somehow, somehow, that kernel of wholesomeness slowly disintegrated and then rebuilt into progressively alarming topics.
By Nine Mile Hill we were taking a group poll on who had ever accidentally walked in on their parents having sex. Cresting the church steeple view ridge, there was a brief debate on whether a water bottle might be used as something of a portable bidet if one were to find one’s self needing to poop on the run sans toilet paper. As we wound down from Luke Lea Heights in the pristine balminess of an early Tennessee morning, we gravely considered complex myths about male genitals. Not far from the finish we were on to a truly delightful subject that, now in my shrunken brain state, I really feel unable to broach in any way that would reasonably account for why in God’s name we were discussing it in the first place.
By the time Cheryl and I got back to my car, I had to walk around in a daze and drink water for a while in order to let my cranium return to a size compact enough to get it through my car door.
Then again, alone on a run yesterday morning, my brain blew up to frightful proportions. Although my pea brain initially considered only innocent, boring, and one-dimensional topics, things quickly spiraled out of control into a panorama of cerebral shenanigans several miles in.
At mile 5, what started as a vague and truly dull thought about paying for Pandora so I wouldn’t get interrupted by ads (*zzzzzzzz* fruit fly brain!!) led me to think about an email from my brother explaining how he had secretly added Parliament Funkadelic Music as a station to our 80-year-old mother’s Pandora stations when he was over at her house recently and wondering if it would come back to haunt him. From there, I envisioned my poor mother hosting a terribly stuffy and stilted dinner party, complete with jackasses like me using phrases like tabula rasa and everyone sipping pomegranate spritzers with their pinkies extended and so on. Then, a lull in the conversation as yet another Diana Krall tune ends, and then… WE WANT THE FUNK! GIVE UP THE FUNK! GONNA TURN THIS MOTHER OOOOOUUUT!!!
As my frontal lobe began shading my eyes , I considered how in our teens, my brother’s record collection, in addition to Parliament, included Procol Harum, Jimi Hendrix, and Boston while I had ABBA, Bay City Rollers, and everything by The Captain and Tennille. Everything! Why was my brother cool, and why was I such an unabashed dork? With a cool shiver of horror at mile 6, I realized I still know all the words to “Muskrat Love.” Muskrat Suzy, Muskrat Sam! Do the jitterbug down in Muskrat Land!!. What was wrong with the person who wrote that fucking song? What the fuck is wrong with me? And why are those lyrics completely available in my brain 40 years later, while I have nary a droplet of recollection of whether or not I bought toilet paper at Costco only yesterday?
By mile 7, I was considering the complexity of stocking those mile-high shelves at Costco and whether they use cherry pickers or some other form of heavy machinery that lifts and separates the pallets. “Lifts and separates” brought to mind bra commercials from the 70s which, by mile 8, dragged me headlong into memories of my first bra (in the 70s. shut up.) which was really more of a flat piece of cloth with some tragic darts sewn in for effect—-a “training bra,” because learning to wear a bra is a terrifically draining and daunting task. One must be painstakingly trained to clasp two hooks, slip two straps over the arms, and position two fabric cones over one’s hooters. It’s complicated!!
And there you have it. From paying for Pandora to training bras in a tidy 8.5 miles.
I nearly always feel mentally relaxed after a run, and it now occurs to me that it’s not because I clear my head; it’s because I jam-pack it with every obscure detail and memory imaginable and tax it to hell and back. Likewise, I feel physically relaxed after a run, not because I’ve just relaxed, but because I’ve just gone out and flailed around like an insane woman in 90 degrees for over an hour.
At the moment, of course, my brain is back to the size of a piece of Chiclets gum, so I’m not even sure if that theory makes sense. I’ll consider it on my next run around mile 5 and let you know.