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Published on September 28th, 2013 | by Richard Black


How I Broke the 30 Minute Mile and the Horror of Male Pattern Baldness

A few months ago I began to run for vanity.

I wish I could say that there was a nobler cause involved but there it is. Instead of running to provide deprived white children in Connecticut with an iPad or as part of a campaign to get Ted Nugent to stop touring or even for my own health I began running for looks.

Its not as if I’m a bad looking guy but I try to do what I can to make the world a more beautiful place and if part of that involves huffing and wheezing my way around the block a few times then so be it.

In the past if I wanted to raise my heart rate I’d have a cup of coffee and half a pack of cigarettes. During college I substituted vast amounts of Mountain Dew and Skoal with a liberal dose of alcohol in lieu of three squares a day and the pounds just seemed to take care of themselves.

Unfortunately these days nicotine is out. I quit smoking more than two years ago and my wife has requested that I no longer drink anything resembling a caffeinated beverage as it turns me into a “raging and neurotic asshole.”

My enthusiasm for exercise began, coincidentally, shortly after I made an observation and a rapid conclusion and then another observation.

I remember the moment clearly which doesn’t happen often. I had just stepped out of the shower and was toweling off when I caught a glimpse of my naked and hairy torso and realized I bore a striking resemblance to a tarantula when I let it all hang out.

This observation was followed by the understanding that, as I was in my late thirties (a truly depressing phrase. .I’d almost rather be an early forties or fifties kind of guy) I was about as good looking as I was going to get.

As a teenager there’s still hope, even the expectation that one will get better looking, that the acne will clear up or the voice will settle into a pleasant baritone and that we’ll fill out a bit and begin to look like an actual real life man instead of a zit riddled bag of bones with a fuzzy lip.

Pushing forty the hope that manhood would bless us with good looks has come and gone. Hair that is generally expected to stay on the head begins a long and inevitable migration towards the ears, the shoulders and then the back as it turns wiry and gray along the way. Eyebrows begin to connect in the middle. Vision goes. Joints pop and crackle like a bowl of Rice Crispies and if you’re lucky you get early onset Alzheimer’s so that you don’t remember that your wife left you ten years ago for a cruise line bartender on the last trip you both took to save your marriage.

Confronted with the inevitable decline in my remarkable looks I realized that, being a stay at home father, my entire financial well-being is completely dependent upon my wife. After five years of gainful unemployment I have become accustomed to a certain standard of living and one I hope to maintain until my wife retires or my daughter marries and her husband can pay for the lifestyle in which I’ve come to expect.

It only took a quick search on the divorce laws in our state to notice that the word “palimony” was not included anywhere. I took an immediate inventory of exactly what I bring to the table. Yes I cook the occasional meal, I clean the house every three or four weeks, I even get up early once a month or so to take my daughter to school.

I’ve worked very hard to keep my wife’s expectations at a minimum and one of the ways, actually the most important way, I’m able to do so is because of my rugged good looks.

Over the next few days I began to take a look at my counterparts, the trophy wives in the better parts of town and realized that I had better get to work. Instead of bulimia I opted for a slightly more socially accepted version of weight loss through vomiting and began running.

It’s awful by the way, running that is. I’m pretty sure I understand how dire Jimmy Fixx thought his health situation was back in the day and why he died at the age of 52. There’s no other reason why anyone would “choose” to run recreationaly. During my first jog around the block I gagged and hacked my way through a circuit that took me just over two miles in an hour and a half.

I like to think that I’ve become something of a neighborhood celebrity or a cautionary tale, something more fit parents point to as I wheeze past their children and their kids ask “what’s wrong with that man?” as the mom or dad slaps their child on the back of the head and tells them not to stare at the slightly overweight man heaving over a bed of begonias.

Three months later I’m happy to say that I’m able to cover the same amount of distance in the  amount of time it takes to order a pizza from Illinois and have it returned to my home in Missouri. By the end of it I look like I’ve run a marathon. Perspiration showers everyone and everything I pass by, my shirt and shorts are drenched in sweat and my delightful musk. As I come into the home stretch I’ve taken on the healthy pale color of a corpse.

I’ve had to wave off more than my share of good Samaritans who wanted to call an ambulance which I appreciate but still find slightly demeaning given the progress that I’ve made.

By the time I’ve huffed and barfed my way home it’s all worth it, at least that’s what I tell myself. I’ve heard of the “runner’s high” but I’ve never felt it and I did my fair share of recreational drugs back in the day.

I don’t care who says it but  a two hour jog has nothing on a bong for of sticky red or a nice bit of opium.

On the positive note , aside from the barfing and hacking and wheezing I’ve found that I am a bit easier to take, more mellow after a run. According to the wife I’m also much less of a “vitriolic asshole” as well and that’s a direct quote.

At the very least my exercise regimen gives me something to do until I catch the next stomach bug that comes around and I finally lose that last seven pounds.

Until then I’ll keep on with the running and hope for the flu. It is after all for my marriage

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