Inner grown-up: Avoid mayhem by listening to it
“Die, you bastard, die.” My father was moaning on the other side of the bathroom door, as my mother listened out in the hallway. He’d made himself sick with a few too many Tom Collins cocktails and the nausea brought forth audible regret.
That’s what peer pressure can do to you. They’d spent the evening with friends (friends who, unlike Dad, could hold their liquor) and my father figured he’d go along with everyone else and have a few more cocktails than he could tolerate.
He should have listened to his inner grownup, and stopped after his customary two drinks.
Paying attention to that little voice can save us all a heap of trouble. Peer pressure, after all, is not just for kids.
A few weeks ago, I had my own outburst of audible regret, and I blame the siren song of peer pressure for my lapse in judgment.
Because I am married to a man who has run more marathons than I can keep track of, I’m often in the company of long-distance runners. Whippet-thin and strong, they devour heaps of lasagna while I pick at my salad and feel like Little Lotta, marveling at what they are able to do with their bodies.
Now, I have no desire to run a marathon. Running 26.2 miles is insane. Have you ever seen marathoners right after they cross that finish line? Pale and expressionless, they appear close to death. (Any endeavor that routinely ends with you wrapped up in a shiny emergency blanket is one to be avoided.)
But the allure of whippet-thinness combined with the freedom to wolf down Italian food with impunity is one I could not resist. And so, about a year ago, I got a pair of serious running shoes and signed up for a 5K (3.1-mile) race.
I amazed myself by running the entire course. The whippets congratulated me, for which I felt kind of sheepish and lame, because 3.1 miles ain’t nothin’ for these people.
So, this past November, I signed up for the Charlottesville Ten-Miler, which will take place on March 31st. I got the training program from Coach Mark Lorenzoni and followed it zealously. (Insanely zealously. What-was-I-thinking zealously. But I only paid attention to the part with the recommended mileage. I neglected to print out the part with advice regarding how to proceed if something goes wrong.)
The training involves two or three short runs during the week, and a long run on the weekend.
I’m delighted to report that I got up to 7.5 miles on my long run. That’s like running from Culbreth Theatre, up U.S. 29, to Airport Road.
Two days after that run, while jogging back down my long, hilly driveway after a mere four miles, I felt a sudden tightness in my calf muscle. I listened to my inner grownup, stopped running, and walked the remaining fifth of a mile.
It wasn’t especially painful, but I decided to be prudent and spent the next couple of days at the gym, using the elliptical and taking it easy on the calf muscle.
Ah, but the training program taped to my kitchen cabinet called for an 8.5-mile run the following weekend. I considered the other 500-plus people who are training for this race and who, surely, are sticking to the prescribed regimen.
On the up side, my husband offered to run with me, and, of course, the tight muscle wasn’t all that bad. It’s not like I was limping or anything.
My inner grownup was whispering: Don’t do it.
But what about the training program? It says 8.5 miles. All the other Ten-Miler trainees would be doing their long run that weekend. I wanted to keep up. Wanted to stay on the path to becoming one of the whippets: running like crazy, gobbling Italian food, looking fabulous.
I completely ignored my external grownup, Coach Lorenzoni, whose advice to everyone is: Don’t run injured.
The day arrived. I suited up and Harry and I met up with his marathoner pals at Greenberry’s, the malt shop for all the cool runners in Charlottesville. Their encouragement was countered by the voice of my inner grownup, who was now shouting: Don’t do this. For the love of God, don’t do this.
And so, dear reader, you can see that peer pressure does not necessarily involve youth or alcohol. I set off on that run, and with both my calf muscle and my inner grownup shouting at me to stop, ran six miles, until I reached the steps of University Baptist Church, where an intense burning in the abused muscle stopped me abruptly, and I sat down on the church steps.
I haven’t run since. I rose from the steps that day and limped down University Avenue, back to the car. And with every step, I winced, and mumbled, “Stupid… stupid... stupid.”
That’s not as intense an expression of regret as “Die, you bastard, die,” but it has gone on for a much longer time.
Sports doctor’s diagnosis: torn calf muscle. Doc thinks I should be sufficiently healed to run the 10-miler at the end of March, but my inner grownup says: Don’t even think about it.
Two years ago, the Free Union-based Jaquith penned a piece about the zombies she accompanied to the Boston Marathon.
Note: The photo accompanying this essay was originally credited to the Charlottesville Track Club; however, the photographer's name is Natalie Krovetz.