Forget jogging!

My buddies and I have noted a strange phenomenon.  Two guys chatting on mountain bikes while tootling along get lots of eye contact from the other recreational trail users.  It could be because we are eye candy — handsome beyond all reason, charismatic, …. Possible, but unlikely.  I suspect it’s because I have a little bell I ring as I approach, because we both make a point of saying hi, and because we thank people for giving us space.

We tend to get ignored by the joggers.  What gives here?   I used to try to break the ice with a hearty hello.  I was misguided.  I won’t do it any more.  I know now that I was wrong.  I understand the reasons now — that unwillingness to participate in the social fabric of the trail comes from jealousy and pain.  I forgive them.  I want to buy them bikes.

I dropped my car off at the auto shop last week and cycled home.  Plenty of eye contact from the dog-walkers, nothing from the joggers.  Happily, the car was ready a few hours later.  I was almost on the bike for the return trip when inspiration struck.  Here’s how it went:

“Those poor joggers don’t understand how wonderful life is.”  {true}

“I’m fit, open-hearted, and positive in spirit and mind.”  {seemed true in the driveway}

“In the interests of science, I should just jog over to get my car.”  {madness}

It seemed so reasonable.  I have jogged before.  I have an excellent cardio base from cycling and racquetball.  And the distance was barely a mile and a quarter.  It was awful.  Picking up speed was ok but there were no extra gears available.  The agony begins almost immediately and each step jars the psyche.  The physical part pales against the psychological battle.  No music is loud enough to drown out the voices that suggest slowing down, stopping, and sitting down on the dirt.  The will to live drains out and the mind’s focus narrows to the starkest of realities — move the next leg forward or your nose will hurt when it hits the ground.  Of course joggers can’t take the time to say hello!  They are enmeshed in a web of agony and there is no space left.  We should get these poor people bikes.  There is no comparison.  Even when I have been defeated by a mountain and I am pushing the bike uphill through the mud there is no comparison.

My glacial progress carried me forward but I suffered from guilt — guilt that I had presumed to judge; guilt that I had reacted without empathy to the suffering of a fellow human.  I tried to smile as a I approached each person on the trail but it was too much.  The timing is never right — by the time you’re close enough to say hello, they can see pain writ large across your face.  They look away to spare you.  The moment drags on and on as you try to get far enough past to resume noisily sucking the very stuff of life into your lungs.

It was finally over.  I was red in the face, covered in sweat, and I couldn’t catch my breath.  I was beyond caring.  Sometimes science takes us to places that are uncomfortable.  Sometimes we go too far.  I ransomed the car and used the defroster to keep the windshield clear.  Now I ask, “why? why jog when even department stores stock bikes?”  This ineffable mystery of choice remains but the social aspect of the shared of the shared use trail has been clarified.  Joggers cannot afford to say hello.  Their struggle is to keep from weeping; to restrain themselves from lunging for your bike.

I spent sunday morning kayaking and then put in some miles cycling with a buddy of mine.  We passed a ton of joggers along the way but we were very respectful; we demanded nothing, letting out wheels simply carry us past their suffering.  It’s better that way.