Between a Rock and a Running Shoe

Posted May 11th, 2009

Sometimes I think I have a rock in my head. A fairly large one—granite perhaps, or maybe Gabbro—lodged in the part of my brain where reason is broadcast. My lovely fiancée disagrees, or pretends to disagree, but she’s a sweetheart, so she has yet to convince me otherwise. Here is an example of why I think my rock theory may be true: The other day, I thought it would be a good idea to go for a little run. It was a foolish idea that had no logical purpose, one which I can only attribute to a chunk of sedimentary deposit in my head. Why else, on a dreary spring day, while in a dreary mood, would I decide to engage in an activity that I am in absolutely no condition to do and have no right doing? I guess I figured some great suffering would pull me out of the doldrums, like fighting fire with a flame thrower.

I am a biker, a snowboarder, a skier, a paddler, a hiker, and a retail junker, but I am not a runner. I have no running gear. Nonetheless, I was going for a run, so I had to do my best with what I have. I threw on my UMaine sweatpants, which if nothing else seemed like a better choice than my snowboard pants, my bike shorts, or my wet suit. It was drizzling a bit, so I grabbed my lightweight, breathable rain jacket, and to keep my core warm, I wore a Capilene top and a micro fleece vest. I laced up my cross trainers, which I use for day hikes and which have as many holes as a regulation golf course, but were more appropriate than my hiking boots, my flip flops, or my dress shoes. And to really look like I knew what I was doing, I grabbed my iPod, which compared to the iPods I see strapped to runners’ arms, looks more like a cassette player. When I was fully “outfitted” I looked more like that guy at the ski resort with the jeans, the New York Jets Starter Jacket, and the lift ticket flapping in his face than a runner.

I went outside, took a few warm-up steps, and started running, at a pace I felt I could maintain—a pace that may or may not have been noticeably faster than walking backwards. I ran for 20 minutes with the elegance and grace of a dump truck. When I was done, I felt exhilarated—mostly because I was done—and for a brief moment I felt like I understood why someone would actually want to do this on a regular basis. That understanding vanished an hour later, when I felt as though I had ridden and been trampled by a large and very irritated bull.

My nose can run, and my mind can run. My mouth can run, and I can run out of words. I can run up a bar tab, and I can run out of money. I can run into someone on the street, and I can run a car into the ground. I can run a bike shop, and I can run a fever. I can run a set of rapids, but I cannot simply run. And as well, I cannot offer sound advice on running, so when a customer comes in needing help with running shoes or running apparel, I run away.

Some people, like Bruce Springsteen, were born to run. One of my favorite fellow coworkers, Chuck, is one of those people. When she runs, she glides effortlessly along with wings on her feet. Her special man friend, Chinch Bug, runs with her, but instead of wings on his feet, he just has shoes. He’s not so much like The Boss, but he apparently shares the same philosophy as David Bowie, who once said, “If you say run, I’ll run with you,” and to express his true loyalty and affection, he one-upped The Thin White Duke by sticking to his promise of, “If you say let’s run 50 miles in a single day, I’ll run with you.”

To all you runners out there, my hat is off. In my mind, I have nothing but feelings of awe and admiration for you. I mean that with the most sincerity, even though in my mind, I also have a rock. I gave running a shot, but I have conceded that, unlike you, I cannot run. And now I’ve run out of room.

Rob Rinaldi DPM

Robert Rinaldi is a board-certified podiatrist and podiatric surgeon at the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, VT. He is a fellow and a founding member of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, and a podiatric consultant to the Dartmouth College track and cross-country teams. He is a former nationally ranked long-distance runner, having competed in 25 world-class marathons. You can reach him at Gifford Sports Medicine and Surgery Clinics in Randolph, VT, or at the Sharon Health Clinic in Sharon, VT, 802-728-2490 or 802-763-8000 or at