A fantasy fulfilled

January 11, 2009

In the novel Timeline by the late Michael Crichton, the character Andre Marek, a medieval historian, practices jousting as a hobby. What a quaint way to spend one’s free time, right? Yet this arcane and archaic skill becomes rather handy when Marek finds himself time-traveling back to the 14th century and being challenged to a joust!

I wonder how many runners out there harbor a fantasy that something similar will happen to them — that, one day, somebody’s life or some important cause will depend on their ability to run fast. That running, in addition to being healthy and fun and all that, will prove useful.

I like to pretend that running is useful for commuting, but that’s not really true. If the goal is to travel between home and work as quickly, cheaply, and safely as possible, cycling and busing are superior options. Except…

Except when it snows like crazy, as it did several times in Seattle last month. The roads were a mess. It was dangerous to drive and impossible to cycle. Bus service was severely reduced and delayed. And yet I didn’t miss a single day of work. I wasn’t even late. When it was time to go to work, I just put my backpack on and started running, as usual. Ditto for returning home in the evening. The snow on the sidewalks added 3-5 minutes to my 6-mile runs, but I saved about that much time at intersections, where there was no need to stop for the (nonexistent) motor vehicle traffic.

Maybe using my bipedal prowess to get to the lab on time wasn’t such a big deal. Still, it was hard not to feel smug as I ran past the abandoned cars and buses.


  1. Yeah, and all those people who usually shake their head about the "crazy" runners were bitching and complaining about being "stuck" at home. Not being able to buy groceries, get to work or to the gym!Trish and I couldn't drive but we wanted to finally paint the "pink room" in our house. (An old lady owned the place before us – now it's the "green room") So we ended up running 3 miles home with 2 gallons of paint.Yes, the ability to run was indeed usefull during the snow.What I don't get, though, is the complaint of many runners who said: "I couldn't run much because of the snow".Huh??? Sure, you run a lot slower than without snow, and you might not get to write as many miles into your training log, but you can still put in the time. I was so excited about being able to run in the snow rather than on asphalt I got 120 and 110 miles during the two snowy weeks – more than before the snow.

  2. Your running will truly come in handy when you need to chase Oricks on foot for three days in order to save the hobbits.

  3. I agree; running really helped during the snow storm. We couldn't get out of our parking lot, so I would run to the grocery store and run home with a bag of groceries in each hand. I also ran everyday (doubles even on some days) and besides being a little bit slower I didn't have many problems. Plus I could run down the middle of the street. The only downside was that I had to run a tempo run on a treadmill because I couldn't get enough traction on the snow for fast running…have you ever tried to run for 80 minutes on a treadmill? It was the single most boring experience of my life.

  4. Often when running alone in the woods for more than a few hours, I begin to imagine that crazed hunters (sometimes they're zombies; sometimes it's a zombie Dean Karnazes) have decided to hunt for me instead of more traditional game. I always managed to narrowly escape.

  5. Sorry Greg, but that was Seattle snow, or what we Canadians refer to as "rain". ๐Ÿ˜‰ In Calgary our recent heavy snow was accompanied by three straight weeks of daily highs mostly below -20 C, with strong winds. The only way you'd get to feel smug in these conditions would not be by running to work–it'd be by going on vacation somewhere warm and running there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I'm sure you've heard by now but worth saying anyway (to me, at least)….I couldn't run in Seattle's snow cuz I was stuck in Hawaii. It was difficult, and work was missed (well, I can't say I *missed* it!) but I hung in there and made it through the mess.

  7. I recall one guy during Hurricane Katrina who survived and he said in a news article that his ultrarunning benefitted him (there were pics of him running in New Orleans with a power stroller filled with items that usually you'd find in a drop bag).

  8. […] have previously lamented the lack of opportunities for amateur distance runners to be action heroes. Today, though, I had just such an opportunity. I enjoyed it greatly, knowing that the chance may […]

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