Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Running Your Wallet into the Twilight Zone

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You're about to run through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind and endurance. A journey over roads and trails and past trees and parks whose boundaries are that of imagination. There’s a mile marker up ahead that announces you have entered the Twilight Zone…of Running.
Now that you’ve entered the Twilight Zone of Running, allow me to be your pacer in this adventure, particularly its least talked about aspect: the expense. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of a runner’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.
Running, particularly running scheduled planned events is deceptively expensive. It starts with the obvious: Race registration fees. You’ve decided to run a marathon and you’re going to drop a sweet $90-$250 on a race registration (with custom bib!). You may even think, “hey, that’s not too bad…I’d spend more than that in a month at Starbucks.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, baby.
Shoes. Bruises, blisters, and torn nails all compelled me to stop wearing the $20 Champion brand Target clearance sneakers and buy real shoes. Whether you buy shoes at a custom running store or shoes at a department store, you’re in it for about the same amount of cash: Plan on spending a cool hundred per pair. If you assume each pair is good for about 400 miles, one pair may last you the time to train up for a single marathon.
Clothing. You may think your cotton t-shirt left over from college is good enough. And maybe it is for those short run days. But add in sweat, heat, and time, and you’d sell your mother out to wear a mesh sleeveless tee with a lot of breathability. The good news? Once you run your first event, you’ll probably get a tech shirt and one for each event thereafter. Before too long, you’ll look at race registration sites, roll your eyes, and say, “another tech shirt? Why can’t they give us something useful?”
Lubricants. Look, I don’t know what you were thinking when you read this, but I assure you lubricants are critical. Initially you may scoff at the risks of chafing and think you’re above being crippled by such discomfort. To you, sir or madam, I say “whatever.” Let me know how that first shower goes after a long hot run when your entire underboob area is chafed raw or you have a raw line running along the underside of your pubic area. You’ll pray to the letters K and Y for relief and swear never again to go running unlubed.
Food. You exercise more, you’ll eat more. You may think that’s not true and you may further delude yourself into thinking you’ll actually lose weight. I won’t be the one to pop your bubble, buttercup, but I’ve yet to know anyone for whom this is true. On top of that, most people fetishize the carb load dinner the night before a marathon and spend their day before scavenging REI for pink-lemonade-martini electrolyte gels and coconut-mocha-hazelnut-banana-dark-chocolate energy bars. (Hey, those sound good.) Pasta is cheap but you’ll probably opt for the pasta buffet at Old Spaghetti Factory, particularly if you’ve traveled out of town and those supplements cost more per ounce than semi-precious metals.
Pedicures and Massages. After a long event, you’ll feel like you deserve some pampering to make up for feeling like your legs were just gang-humped by a pack of rampaging gorillas while you ran over hypodermic needles. This is one of those totally optional expenses that really feels li ke entitlement after the race so you might as well just plan for it. (And schedule it now – nothing stinks more than being told the only time slot open to you is at 7am on a Tuesday.
Now, you’ve paid one month’s worth of rent to prepare for a marathon that you’ll finish with a hunk of metal (hopefully a nice one) and hella bragging rights. And you’ll probably think, “I’ve crossed that off my bucket list. I’m done!”
But you’re wrong. You’ll want to do better and run another. So don’t quit your day job, baby, because you’ve just entered the marathon Twilight Zone. You and your wallet will never escape.

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