CharlesatlasMy secret can now be told. I've been running.

Just about every morning, Alisa and I get up earlier than our Usual Early and stretch with t'ai chi and run. We're up to about a mile. With several walking breaks.

It's hard.

I'm Weak.
Former P.E. teachers and high school coaches can tell you that I'm a
natural cheerleader, but lack the determination to be a natural
athlete. I'm a good target in dodgeball. I was the only upperclassman
on the track team not to earn a varsity letter the year we won the State Championship.

 I've never really aspired to be the After Guy in the Charles Atlas advertisement. I found a kinship with the Before Guy. He seemed to have more Zen.

Sweat? I prefer to give blood.

I've never found the joy in solitude or next-day aching that my athletic friends report. I envy them.

Still I Exercise.
Over the years, my athleticism has flared up from time to time. I usually treat it with doses of short-distance jogging, light weight-lifting, casual stretching, and sight-seeing bike riding.

Because "I have a fast metabolism" (whatever that means, I've been saying it for 35 years), I'm a fairly skinny guy. People, all my life, have sized me up, saying: "You must be a runner."

"Not really," I answer earnestly. "I have a fast metabolism." We both nod — with knowing tight-lipped smiles — and move on.

On The Road (Again)
My daily regimen includes: T'ai Chi (the exercise I can do for the rest of my life) and running (the exercise I can do for the rest of the summer, maybe). Plus doses of light
weight-lifting, casual stretching, and sight-seeing bike riding.


Exercise, for me, has never been for its own sake. The Be Here Now Crowd says it should be an end unto itself. Happiness should not be deferred.

But it isn't fun for me. I'm doing it for a Greater Good Farther Down the Road.

In high school, it was a way to be engaged (and maybe meet girls). In college, it was a way to meet girls (in co-ed intramurals).

Since parenthood, it's been a way to be fit enough to perform as a parent. I recall my back hurting too much to pick up our first-born. I started working out.

Now, I'm facing a giant hike with our last-born in 30 days: to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. I can't afford the emergency helicopter ride out of the canyon.

So I'm running. But only under the Cloak Of Night.

Why Run At Night?
Because I'm running way too slowly to have the neighbors watching.

The Slowness is awkward twice. First of all, I'm moving slowly. It's embarrassing. That's not good.

Secondly, because I'm moving slowly, I'm visible for way too long. I don't race off into the distance. I run in front of their yards for many long moments before I'm even a little ways down the block.

By running at night, I conserve dignity.

Which Reminds Me of An Adage
Brooks Young once told me — when he learned that I was jogging in the dark years ago:

"There are only two types of people outside at that time of night: perpetrators and victims."

Then, he sized me up:

"And I know which one you are."

Which one are you?