The runner's life requires discipline, sometimes the occasional denial of of life's more-pleasurable pursuits. But when a Simon's football (you may call it soccer) match and a hash kennel (mis-)management meeting falls on the same afternoon as a workout, common sense states it's better to defer the task and make many (female) family members happy. Because, like the old phrase says "when Mama (in this case, "Grammy" Suzanne...) ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
And this coach is all for happiness.
Four-year-old footballers, like Simon, do not naturally exhibit the same skills as the first-division professionals I've enjoyed watching for the past three decades, with the exception of the one kid who had the "crumpled on the turf" posture at the mouth of the goal down pat, which occurred immediately after the opposing team's score. The match looked kind of like what happens when an order of french fries is dropped in the parking lot of a Burger King in Florida: The french fries represent the soccer ball, the seagulls are the players.
So I laughed and cheered both sides for twenty minutes, and marveled at the fun the small fry were having; it was clear they were enjoying themselves. What they were doing was - for their benefit - a simplified version of football, without corner kicks or offside rules. Everybody played the entire game, and - save a few handball calls - no real fouls in spite of the two goal mouth dives from that one kid.
"You beat my husband up pretty good on Saturday," said the hash treasurer.
I explained that her husband was as much responsible for his own beating as I. Suzanne concurred with my assessment of the situation, and suggested "hash cash" could keep him company at the next Saturday morning workout.
She said, "I just started a 'couch-to-five-kilometer' training program at the local running emporium, and all they do is tell us to 'go run.' I was paired up with a guy who runs slower than I do, and I really don't feel like I'm getting any benefit out of it."
"You couldn't run any faster?" I asked.
"No. And what about nutrition? What about core, stretching, and cross-training? Sure, they gave us an information sheet, but I feel like I paid for something..."
"Tell you what I'll do." I said. "Let's do dinner some Friday evening. We can talk about all this and find out what you want to get out of a training program. I'll try to answer your questions to the best of my ability, and point you in the right direction."
The "hash cash's" lament succeeded in winding me up in the manner of a cheap wristwatch, but, because I promised my wife I would not speak ill of local running impresari I made only weak comments. It wasn't until the following morning as I was preparing for work - amazing what a hot shower (and Tina Turner's "Private Dancer...") can do for encouraging deep thoughts - that it all came to me. The goal of a Cto5K program isn't that far removed from that of a recreational football program for four year-olds: Minimize the hard stuff, maximize the fun. So what if the other team beats you by two goals; everyone got to play, everyone got to chase after the ball, right? And everybody on the sidelines were cheering for you, right?
In Kenny Moore's biography, Oregon coach Bill Bowerman considered running an act which was as easy as brushing ones' teeth. Bowerman's protege' Bill Dellinger clarified that belief; running may have paralleled basic dental care, but training was like having ones' teeth cleaned for an hour each day. It's bad enough that middle and high school physical education teachers, athletic coaches at all levels, and the military service have turned running from a joyous activity into punishment and drudgery. Sometimes we need to take the activity and restore it back to it's most simple form of placing one foot in front of the other, repeatedly, for as long as we can enjoy it. When a world record holder in the marathon (Alberto Salazar) recommends running no more than 30 minutes a day for five or six days out of the week, and adding other forms of exercise to build muscle strength and flexibility, there might be something to be said about why we run for longer than that duration.
We run because it makes us happy. And if we aren't happy, and if we aren't running in a way that makes us happy...