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Wildly Exaggerated: Alice in Run-derland

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Alice in Run-derland

I hate exercise. There, I said it.

I don't mind long walks, tennis games, Wii Fit or Chinese Fire Drills. Those things are fun. What I hate is the capital-E "Exercise" - the kind where you have to run a certain distance or swim for a certain length of time or whatever, all while monitoring your various bodily functions and vital signs. I didn't always hate capital-E "Exercise" quite this much. Once upon a time I only mildly disliked it, and even made occasional efforts to learn to like it. But then I dated a triathlete for a year, and I'm here to tell you: if you ever want to get to a point where you hate health and can't wait to blow up like Jabba the Hut and die, date a serious triathlete. Good Lord.

The thing is, a guy says he's a triathlete and you immediately think "That's HOT!" And it is...kind of. On the one hand, he probably will have a good-looking body, and if you go to races with him, you'll get to travel a bit and meet lots of new people. So that's nice. On the other hand, you will end up sharing your bedroom with a bicycle that is far more important to him than you will ever be, you'll be surrounded by piles of nasty sweat-soaked clothes, and sooner or later you will find yourself shivering beside an unfamiliar river at 5 in the morning while a group of strangers nearby give each other a detailed report of exactly what happened when they went into those Port-a-Potties moments before. Apparently this is just typical breeze-shooting among athletes. All the more reason to aspire to a sedentary lifestyle, if you ask me.

Anyway, before The Triathlete taught me the beauty of sitting still in air conditioned rooms, I periodically took a stab at athleticism myself. One of my favorite things to do was Fail to Run Races at Disney World. I should note that running races at Disney World is probably fun too, but I wouldn't know, as I only ever failed to run them. For a few years, I failed to run the Food & Wine Festival 10k. I would go down to Florida, walk the course (taking full advantage of the free food so bizarrely offered at the water stops), jog across the finish line and call it a resounding success. But then, one summer, I got incredibly light-headed and/or drunk and/or had a mildly psychotic episode and registered myself for the to Fail to Run the Disney World Half Marathon the following January. My brother signed up too, except that he ultimately Failed to Fail at it, but I guess he just didn't understand the object of the game.

Believe it or not, I was on track to Fail to Fail myself, except that I ended up with a 2-month long health issue in November and December, meaning there was no way I could run 13.1 miles in January. I opted, once again, to walk.

The thing about Disney races is that they are designed to be beginner-friendly, with lots of distractions along the way - photo ops with characters, courses that take you "behind the scenes" so you get to see some cool stuff, and of course the scenery. It's good of them to provide these things, and if you've trained appropriately, it makes for a REALLY cool, REALLY memorable race. On the other hand, if you're me (and you're barely prepared to walk to your mailbox), it makes it increasingly difficult to discern reality from hallucination. I remember seeing human-sized mice wearing bridal veils. I remember meeting Winnie the Pooh in a remote corner of a parking lot. I remember a woman bearing handfuls of melted Ghirardelli chocolate squares, which she shoved into my fists as I passed. I remember Captain Hook taking hostages on a Disney Cruise Line boat, again in a parking lot. But I couldn't tell you how much of this was real, and how much was my brain's attempt to ignore the fact that I was walking myself toward the cold, comforting arms of death. I find it a little disconcerting that they're now actively marketing this as a plus.
From the site for Disney's Princess Half Marathon, February 2012
This picture is like a bad acid flashback for me. I remember only too well the nightmarish blaring of the alligator's trumpet in my ear, the bizarre and inappropriate propositioning of the frog as I ran screaming from the castle, in which I was convinced I had just seen Cinderella hurling glass slippers at me. The waters rose up out of nowhere, and slowly closed in around me until I was trapped.
From the site for the Disney Wine and Dine Half-Marathon
And here, again, we see a hapless runner staring fixedly ahead, telling herself "THEY'RE NOT REAL! THEY'RE NOT REAL!" Living champagne bottles douse her with alcohol as a talking candle menacingly brandishes his flames at her booze-soaked leg. A clock and some napkins laugh and dance mockingly as Jackie Joyner Joan of Arc approaches. The horror!

While these photos may look completely fake, they are all too real to those of us who have Failed to Prepare for a Disney World Race. *shudder* Still, it's healthier than doing acid. 

(Seriously, though, if you're wanting to do a long-distance race for the first time, you should check out the Disney races. They're much more fun than just running endlessly on empty roads, which has been my experience with most other races. Not that I personally will ever race again, except in cases where there's only one cupcake left.)

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