Why So Serious?

Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Related Post Roulette

27 Responses

  1. FridayNext says:

    My first marathon was when I was 37 and I had just finished losing 75 pounds. It was 4:20 and some change.

    Waddle on my friend, waddle on.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    Nice. This is quite funny to me. When I was younger I was a serious worker-outer. Running, cycling, lifting. As many as twelve workouts a week. At my peak, I was doing log house construction or (running a chain saw for 8-10 hours a day) or raft guiding (which is actually pretty mellow) and running/cycling both before and after the work day most days. I read the training/fitness mags about how to increase my VO2 max and anaerobic threshold and all that. I had heartrate monitors and scheduled low heart rate recovery work outs (at 155!) into my routine and tried really hard to increase my maximum heart rate. (For a long time it was capped at 172, which was a drag. I remember when I realized that too much consistent high heart rate work can actually lower your maximum heartrate. That was a surprise.) All that.

    But I was never one of those people. Of course not.Report

    • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

      The marathoner I knew had a resting heartrate of about … 40 or so. Also, vegan.Report

    • Sam in reply to Stillwater says:

      I think you can do all of that stuff enthusiastically, so long as you’re not outraged by the idea that somebody else somewhere is doing things slightly different than you are. The last thing I want to do is lump all serious athletes in with this particular group of dour scolds. That’s not the case.Report

  3. Michelle says:

    Good luck with the marathon. You’re right, it’s just running but it’s a whole lot of running at once.Report

  4. ARGH! You’re going to beat me to a marathon, my friend.

    I wish you the very best of luck.

    And yeah, it’s just running. A while back I posted about how unseemly I found it that Runner’s World tried to elevate it into some noble tribute to the 9/11 victims in their 10th anniversary issue. It may be my chosen pastime, but a pastime it remains. Nothing more.Report

  5. zic says:

    Run, Wilkinson, run.


  6. Tod Kelly says:

    This was space awesome.Report

  7. Kim says:


    I hear this event has better organizers. It might be that I know some volunteers for it… 😉

    The Pittsburgh Marathon seems like a total party thing (music, free food, a bunch of local communities getting a chance to show off). Are they winding it up in Heinz Field this year?Report

  8. Jeff says:

    I really don’t understand why you think the tips from Mens Health are dickheaded. The tips seem reasonable and courteous. Some are a little silly, such as Upgrade Your Attire, I personally could care less what the next person is wearing. I may not understand since I have ran all of my life, but if I am being a dickhead I would truly like some enlightening on what the bad advice in this article is.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Jeff says:

      The individual bits of advice might be just fine, but they’re kind of laid out in a dickish way. This title isn’t framed in terms of what you should know, or what might be helpful, or what might allow you to enjoy the sport. It’s framing it in terms of what you need to do so that the cool kids will lower themselves to talking to you the real runners don’t have to put up with how annoying the newbie is.Report

    • Russell Saunders in reply to Jeff says:

      I must admit, the only one that really struck me as dickheaded was the attire suggestion. (Only a dick would care about such a thing, much less stipulate thusly.) Everything else seemed pretty much simple courtesy to me, too.Report

    • Sam in reply to Jeff says:

      There are plenty of places we could start but:

      1. My biggest objection is the idea that this stuff is somehow secretive knowledge that only serious runners know. Don’t run on the left? Don’t spit on people? Don’t smell bad? That’s common sense, not high holy secrets of the Tarahumara.

      2. All of this advice is basically centered around the idea of how we can make running better for those who take it seriously. Since they’re so offended by our attire, we should dress better. Since they’re so offended by our training regimens, we should train differently. Since they’re so offended by my chub rub chafing (why again is that their concern), we should lube up more. It’s all about them and their needs.Report

  9. Pinky says:

    6’3″ 240 pounds is not fat! It’s healthy, well-built, muscular. A person could even be a couple of inches shorter than that and weigh a few pounds more, and it’d still be rude to call him fat. He wouldn’t be lean, but he’d have nothing to apologize for.

    I’m just saying.Report

    • Sam in reply to Pinky says:

      While I assure you that you don’t want to see me in my cold weather running tights – “GAAAAAH, MY EYES!!! FETCH THE BLEACH!!! – I also appreciate the kind words. I also boggle at the health-and-fitness charts which recommend that a 6’3” man should weigh 180 pounds. At the healthiest I’ve ever been, I weighed 220 pounds. That was with a strict(ish) diet and almost daily exercise. I drop 40 pounds from where I was then sounds impossible.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Sam says:

        Anecdotes are not data, but…

        Look at pictures of ordinary people in the US going back to the Civil War. Soldiers in the war — the majority of whom were recently civilians, and who received minimal physical training — look positively scrawny, but were fit enough to do 20-mile marches with 40-50 pounds of gear for multiple days in a row. Look at city street scenes from the 1920s; nary a paunch to be seen. When I look at old family pictures from the 1950s, I am struck by how skinny the adults look compared to people today.

        I have a friend who gets sent to do research for Intel on how people in undeveloped and developing countries use computers — Brazil, India, China, and a variety of places in Africa. He remarks that the first thing he notices when he walks through the US airport upon returning from a week or two in any of those places is how heavy everyone looks. As he puts it, “Even most of the slender people in the US look like they’re overweight.”

        I would be willing to take a small bet that, if you were to find yourself in a situation where every day was a continuous mild-level exercise program, but at the end of those eight or ten hours you had seldom sat down, cumulatively walked several miles, and cumulatively lifted and carried a couple tons, and had a modest restriction on the calories available (especially from red meat), you would wind up down in the neighborhood of that 180 pounds. And by contemporary standards, be remarkably fit. Not marathon-fit, or power-lifting fit, but fit in the sense of spending the day helping your friend move, carrying furniture and boxes of china and books up and down stairs and lifting it onto and off of the truck and never breathing particularly hard or being sore the next day. About the only people who can do this these days are actors preparing for a role where they want to look “emaciated” and can afford a stable of people around them to enforce the regimen.Report

        • Sam in reply to Michael Cain says:

          I’m completely out of my element, but doesn’t human framing start to matter at some point?Report

        • Pinky in reply to Michael Cain says:

          I was being facetious. 6’3″ 240# is a range I’m very familiar with, and I certainly have some topographic features I wish I didn’t. It’s been a tough road to get down to the size I am.

          I haven’t done any travelling in developing countries, but I have seen the difference in Europe. To put it statistically, I think the mode is similar, but the upper-end variation is much higher in the US. To put it less statistically, you just don’t see a certain body shape in Europe.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Sam says:

        I’m a little under 6’1″. When I got down to around 180, I looked like a heroin addict.Report

  10. David Ryan says:

    I say yay for Sam!Report

  11. Mike Schilling says:

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their race, but by their race.”Report