Those Crazy Runners

Those Crazy Runners. I know them. I’ve seen them many times. They are strange. Some leave early in the morning and strive to beat the sun. Others run with the sun at noon, they get tired in the afternoon or they try to avoid a truck running over them at night. They are crazy. In summer they run, they jog, they sweat, they get dehydrated and finally they get tired ... only to enjoy the rest after the run. In winter they cover themselves, they dress for the cold, they complain, they get cold, they catch colds and let the rain soak their face. I have seen them. They run fast through the boulevard, slowly among the trees, through winding dirt roads, they climb hills littered with rocks , they run on the side of paths that were once roads, they avoid the waves on the beach, they cross wooden bridges, step on dry leaves, climb up hills, jump over puddles, cross parks, they are bothered by cars that do not slow down, they run away from dogs and run, run and run. They listen to music that accompanies the rhythm of their legs, listen to the ovenbirds and the gulls, listen to their own heartbeats and their own breathing, look forward, look at their feet, smell the wind that went through the eucalyptus trees, the breeze that came out of the orange trees, breathe the air that breezed through the pines and they stop when they pass the jasmines.

I have seen them. They are crazy. They use Championes and other brand name running shoes, run barefoot or wear shoes. Their shirts get soaked with sweat, they wear caps and clock again and again their own time. They are trying to beat someone. They jog relaxed, pass by the person with the white dog, sprint after the next column, look for a fountain to cool off ... and continue. They register themselves in all the races… but they do not win any. They start running the race the night before, they dream that they are jogging and in the morning they get up with the same excitement as children on a Christmas Day morning. Their clothes are ready on the chair, as they used to be in their childhood on the eve of the holidays. The day before the race they eat pasta and don’t drink alcohol, but as soon as the race is over they reward themselves with plenty of food and drink. I was never able to calculate their age but they probably are between 15 and 85 years old. They are men and women.

They are crazy. They register for eight or ten kilometers and before the race starts they know that they might not win even if they were the only racers. They show anxiety at the start of each race and a few minutes before the start they need to go to the bathroom. They adjust their watches and they try to locate the four or five racers they must beat. These four or five racers are their references for the race: “Five who run like me.” Beating just one of them will be sufficient to allow them to sleep at night with a smile. They enjoy it as they pass another racer ... but they encourage him, telling him that the finish line is near and ask him not to slow down. They ask for the water stations and become angry because they are not yet in their horizon. They are crazy, they know that in their own homes they have all the water they want, without waiting for a young volunteer to hand them a glass of water during the race. They complain that the sun is killing them and that the rain is blinding them. They are not well, they know that nearby is the shade of a willow or a sheltered area. They do not rehearse them ... but they have all the excuses ready by the time they reach the finish line. They do not rehearse them …they are part of them.

The wind against, not one drop of air, the new shoes, the race course badly laid out, those that are walking ahead and do not let you pass, the birthday party we attended last night, the blister near the seam of the new socks , the knee that betrayed me once again, I started up way too fast, there was no water left, near the finish line I was going to sprint but then I decided not to. They enjoy the start of the race, enjoy the run and when they cross the finish line they enjoy lifting their arms because they say they have made it. They won once again! They did not realize that they lost as a hundred or a thousand other runners also lost ... but they insist they won once again. They are strange. They invent their own goal in each race. They beat their own personal records, they beat those watching on the sidewalks, those watching on TV and those who do not even know that there are crazy people who run. Their hands shake when they attach the bib to their clothes, simply because they are not feeling well. I’ve seen them suffer.

Their legs hurt, they get cramps, breath with difficulty, have sharp pain on the ribs ... but continue running. As they move towards the finish line the muscles suffer more and more, their face shows the pain, the sweat covers their faces, the sharp pains appear more and more often and two kilometers before the finish line they begin to wonder why they are doing this. Why not be one of the sane spectators who are applauding from the sidewalk? They are crazy. I know them well. When they arrive they hug their wives or their husbands who do not mind the sweat on their face and body . Their children are waiting for them and even a grandparent or a grandchild encourages them when crossing the finish line. Their foreheads are like a poster saying “I arrived-Task Accomplished”. As soon as they cross the finish line they drink water and splash water on their heads, sit down in the grass to recover only to be interrupted immediately by the greetings of those who crossed the finish line before them. They sit down again and interrupt their rest in order to greet those who cross the finish line after them. They try to do some stretches, and they embrace a crazy friend who arrives sweating more than they did.

I have seen them many times. They are crazy. They watch with affection and without pity those crossing the finish line ten minutes later, they respect the last one and the second last because they say they are respected by those arriving first and second. They enjoy the applauses even when they are the last ones to cross the finish line beating only the ambulance or the motorcycle guard. They are usually grouped in teams and travel 200 Kilometers in order to run 10. They buy all the photos that are taken of them by the race organizers and they do not realize that the photos are quite similar to those from the previous race. They hang their medals in their house in places where their visitors can spot them easily and prompt them to ask about them. They are crazy. - This one is from the last month’s race- they say trying to use their more humble tone. – This one is the first one that I won - omitting information that the medals were given to every racer, including the last racer and also given to the race volunteers. Two days after the race, very early in the morning they are already jumping puddles, ascending and descending stairs, swinging their arms rhythmically, greeting cyclists, giving high fives to those fellow runners they encounter on their running route. They say that these days, only few people are capable of being alone-with themselves-even one hour per day.

They say that only fishermen, swimmers and a few more. They say that people cannot bear so much silence. They say that they themselves enjoy it . They say that they make and monitor plans, that they have regrets and also that they congratulate themselves, that they question themselves, that they plan their daily lives while running and converse with themselves without fears. They say that all the others are looking for excuses in order to always run in company of others.. They are crazy. I have seen them. Some just walk ... but one day ... when no one is looking they cheer up and start jogging.. In a few months they will begin to transform themselves and become as crazy as the other runners. They stretch, look at themselves, rotate, breathe, sigh and start to run. They sprint, slow down and sprint again. I think they want to beat death. They say they want to have a good life. They are completely crazy.

Marciano Durán - Escritor Uruguayo