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Column: Guide to running

I look behind me, and I see him. About six feet tall, maybe 40, 45 years of age. Slightly balding, wearing a sweat-soaked shirt, shorts that are definitely too short and beat-up, old-school Nikes.

I begin to run faster, urging my legs to propel me forward.

I look back again. Now, he's even closer. Heart pounding, lungs burning, lactic acid building up in the furthest reaches of my muscles, I try to step up the pace.

And then, before I can look back again, he's right there next to me.

He gives me a weak smile, turns his head, lengthens his stride and forges on ahead, leaving me trailing in his dust.

Yes folks, I just got out-run by an overweight 45-year-old. And it isn't the first time.

Incidents like this initially made me feel like never running again. My forays into running were always met with disappointment at my self-perceived athletic failures. Running wasn't enjoyable because I was always struggling to meet a certain standard.

There is an unstated pressure on all prospective runners to run gracefully, effortlessly and relentlessly. Pop culture teaches us that runners have lanky, lean bodies, that running is a sport that grants its disciples clarity and inner peace. There is no place in the world of running for the plodding, the awkward and the uncoordinated.

But I say to hell with what the Nike commercial tells me I have to be.

It's taken me a year and a half of intermittently running, but I have finally reached the conclusion that I will never be that type of a runner. Yet I refuse to believe that I cannot be a runner.

And I believe that anyone else can be a runner too. (Hello, my name is Richard Simmons!)

So, this is my definitive, not-guaranteed-to-be-complete guide to running, for runners of all types.

There are a few things that one must do before any running actually takes place. First, decide how far and how long you want to run. There's nothing more disappointing than having to stop in the middle of a run, simply because you've bitten off more than you can chew.

The trail around East Campus or between East and West are good places to start. If you don't mind hills or the occasional pile of dog droppings, the track that borders the Duke Golf Course is also a decent-sized run.

Secondly, remember to stretch. Stretching is of the utmost importance, especially if you are of the weekend-warrior mold like yours truly. And it's doubly important if you don't think you'd enjoy the wonderfully intense feeling of sore muscles and pulled ligaments the next morning.

Also, it often helps to find a "running buddy." As the old knight said to Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, "choose wisely." Find someone of equal fitness caliber; otherwise, you will find yourself either really far ahead, or really far behind. Either way, you will end up alone.

Lastly, determine what your motivations for running are exactly. Many people do it for completely physical benefits. Some find it an effective mechanism for stress-relief. Others crave the "runner's high" that is occasionally achieved. Whatever your reasons, it is important to keep them in mind, especially when you're struggling to finish that last quarter-mile, and your body is telling you lie down in the middle of the trail and never get up again.

And then, there's nothing left to do but double knot the shoe laces, put one foot in front of the other and repeat in rapid succession.

Now, I must warn you--it is inevitable that sometime during your run, you will get passed up. In fact, it is quite likely you will end up in the wake of someone else's sonic boom as they seemingly fly past you on rocket shoes.

But do not despair; this happens to the best of us. It's unreasonable to think you can keep up with the lithe, flitting steps of those girls who never seem to do anything else but run.

As long as it isn't a slightly balding, definitely over-weight, 45-year-old man, in too-short shorts who's just sped by, you've got nothing to feel ashamed about.

See you out there.

Jasen Liu is a Pratt sophomore. His column appears every third Wednesday.

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