I had a football player stop me this summer to ask me what sport I did, as I was walking back to the track from the stadium – I had just finished filling my backpack up with PB&Js from the snack bar. True, I happened to be wearing a cross country shirt at the time, but I told him anyway.
At my response, his face contorted into the kind of expression you’d make when you smell the first fart of many waft up on a three-hour plane ride. So I tried to explain myself: ‘You know, like distance running,’ but he had already begun to walk away, still looking at me as if I were insane.
And occasionally, during the past five years of blindly pulling a shirt and some shorts on in the dark before the sun rises, only to realize I’ve worn all garnet again and look like a shriveled up cranberry, I wonder if I am insane for being a distance runner.
I like the quote that’s often misattributed to Albert Einstein (it actually first appeared in a slightly different form in a 1981 Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet).
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
But isn’t that essentially what distance runners do? Don’t you run year after year, mile after mile, long run after excruciatingly-long, long run, and expect, nay hope, to get better? And you go to that same cross country meet that you went to the year before that had gone so badly, when you had to check your shorts after you crossed the finish line to see if it might have been worth your while to wait in the huge line for the porta-potties before the race. You follow the same racing schedule year in and year out and still are able to get excited for improvement. But how? Because distance runners all have one thing in common: despite our routine, we’re excellent at forgetting things. And our memory has to be short because, for most of us, we don’t always race like the Olympian we’re convinced that’s locked down deep inside of us. So maybe, at least for me, distance running isn’t as insane as it seems because I don’t remember that I’m doing the same thing over and over again.
I’d like to think that I choose to forget past races, injuries, mistakes, and monotonies like everyone else so that I can move forward with the same fervor that I had when I was fresh-faced 18-year-old. In fact, I might be the best forgetter of things that I know. But the truth is, I just have a horrible memory. I’m like my dad, I guess who – God bless the man – forgets to tell me whenever he just happens to be travelling from Rhode Island to Tallahassee (I’m actually not convinced that this is due to forgetfulness).
All this brings me to what I really want to address. I’m so good at forgetting things that I forgot, and this is a rough estimate, half of my luggage back in Wisconsin. Shirts, shorts, pants, tights, socks, underwear – it’s all probably sitting in the laundry bag I left them in somewhere in a trash heap right now in the charming little town of Verona. But all that stuff pales in comparison to the hat I forgot on the nightstand. It was grey, with its brim worn out and a stitched Seminole head on the front. It probably smelled and is sweat-stained from years of use. But it was my favorite hat.
So, good people of Hyatt Place, if you’re reading this and you have my hat, I will pay good money for it. I think I have 10 bucks in my wallet right now.
But in time, if I don’t ever see that hat again, I will forget about it, just like I’ll forget about my race last Friday. And I’ll move on.
On another note, for next week I want to try something different. I’m going to field questions, comments and concerns that anyone reading this may have for me. Send whatever you want to firstname.lastname@example.org. But be warned, if I log into that email on Sunday and have no emails, next week’s article will be answering fake questions about how I got so handsome.
Bryce Kelley, a graduate student in Integrated Marketing Communications, is a fifth-year Seminole from Hope Valley, R.I. A two-time All-ACC Academic selection in cross country with his undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, Kelley will be providing a weekly inside look at the FSU men’s team throughout the season.