Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Dean Karnazes Moment At Target

In his book, Run!, Dean Karnazes tells a story of stumbling upon a liquor store out in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of even more nowhere, and about a curious, hard to read liquor store clerk. In search of running fuel, not booze, Karnazes manages to scare up a few stale energy bars, some almonds and a bottle of Pedialyte. It's the wee hours of the morning and darker than dark outside. The clerk finds himself faced with this strange looking character who seemingly appeared out of nowhere, while Karnazes finds himself given the once-over by the suspicious clerk.  Strange strangers in a strange land. The clerk asks him, "Are you one of those marathon people?" Karnazes concedes that, "Ah...yes...I guess you could say that". The clerk says " I used to run when I was a boy. I want to start again...I'm going to start again...I'm going to start tomorrow morning."  With each declaration, the clerks enthusiasm appears grows more adamant...


It's latish on a Monday night. Yoga is canceled so I take advantage of the time, sans child, to do some Easter shopping. Target in surprisingly quiet and peaceful. I pile up all the goodies - you know, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, Cadbury mini-creame and caramel eggs - Wooza - Oh, and Peeps (of course), the yellows (for tradition's sake) and chocolate - onto the rolling conveyer belt. As the cashier absently pushes my value pack of Disney Fairies across the scanner. He looks at me hard, hesitates, and says, "You run?". At first I'm taken aback - Yeah, I think, this is where my life has led. A middle-aged mom buying Easter candy late on a Monday night...what could be more obvious then that I run!?

Then I look down to see what I'm wearing (in the same way I sometimes look to check if I'm actually wearing shorts when I'm out running) that might give me away. I'm wearing my "I Run" sweatshirt. Well, duh...and... too bad. I was hoping that somehow it was just obvious, that I just looked like a runner -  from my physique, my aura, my general presence - but no. Runners do like to identify themselves to other potential members of the tribe, but alas, I was being obvious even to the uninitiated.

"Well, Yes. I run." glancing at the words on my chest to suggest the obvious answer to his question.
"How much?" he continues.
"Umm, a lot", I respond. I'm not really inviting further inquiry, though in most situations if you ask me about running you'll find that you've gotten yourself caught in a lengthy conversation. Try to escape and I may grab you by the ear. After all, I want everyone, everywhere to run. I'm positively evangelical when it comes to running.
"Like How far?", he fires back. He is very clearly determined to get some information out of me.
"Well, I run marathons." What else can I say.
"Wow. I'm gonna start running" he says enthusiastically, gazing off at nothing in particular. "I really want to start running."

At this point he's bobbing up and down behind the checkout counter, his gaze returns to me, his eyes seem to dart about without ever leaving my face.

"What do you eat?" he immediately asks "You know, before and after."
"Before and after what?" I'm clueless, and the harried, exhausted looking woman behind me, piling up Easter candy and underpants on the rolling conveyer belt, stares at me impatiently.
"Well, what do you eat before and after you run a lot?" he asks.

I try to explain that different people like to eat different things and that it takes some time to figure out what works best for you. I offer some general guidelines...but...

"No, no, no, no. What do YOU eat?" He's emphatic. He won't let this go. "I've heard about cucumber-celery juice - Yeah, I'm gonna run tomorrow. I really want to start running. Yeah, what about juice? You drink juice?" he continues without taking a breath between thoughts. He's not nuts, he's excited. There's a clear qualitative difference between the two states of mind.
"Well, I haven't heard about that, but sure, why not" I respond, distantly, as I sign the credit card receipt. I wish him well, and say, "You can do it if you really want to".

"Tomorrow" he says, practically grabbing me by the arm as I turn to leave. "Tomorrow I'm going to start running. I really am"...and we part ways.

"Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow."- Henry David Thoreau
So maybe I'll go back to Target, next Monday night. Perhaps I'll go check in, see if he started running yet.

It's spring, the season of new beginnings. Lots of non-runners, past-runners, and fair weather runners, decide that this is the time to dig those sneakers out from the back of the closet. Go out, fellow runners, and get someone hooked. Spread the good word. Be the example.


  1. I enjoyed reading this. Yes, some of those conversations with strangers about running can be awkward.

  2. You should definitely check in with him again. I bet he'll be surprised. This makes me feel positively evangelical, too, and I'm not an evangelical type about anything unless asked--and then I, too, will give an earful. My current target is my own sister. If I could get her to start running, I tell her, her depression would be greatly reduced. Do I sound like a snake-oil salesman or what? But I do believe it, brothers and sisters, yes I do.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! And I meant to leave a message on your blog! We are so in the same place (psychologically) right now. I'm happy I'm not alone in my Boston funk. Hope it breaks soon, for both of us!

  4. How cool! I, too, find people sharing how they used to run or want to start. I have yet to have this kind of moment, though. Thanks for sharing!


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