Friday, February 13, 2015


“So, you’re alive.”

Shaun, my old mountain-climbing friend, the guy who had a heart attack way back when, is standing over me as I try to do sit-ups at the gym.

“Barely – ” I make a feeble attempt at a welcoming smile, taking the interruption to stop my exercise in futility. “—but, nevertheless, here I am.”

I sit up, grab the crumpled white towel next to me, and wipe my face, though I am not sweating.

“I was wondering what happened to you,“ Shaun says. He is sporting a gray goatee; he has on an old pair of gym shorts, a worn t-shirt, and his hands are tucked into the pockets of a faded hoodie. He must have been walking the indoor track, where he spotted me in the corner, crunched up on an exercise pad behind the stairmaster machines.

I was hoping for a little anonymity. Fucking Shaun.

It’s been two months since we talked and the holidays have come and gone. I have gained more than ten pounds in the interim and am suffering from a mind-bogging headache, a debilitating depression based on my burgeoning weight.

The last person I want to see is fucking Doomsday Shaun.

“Been back for a while,” I say. “Though, took some time off. You know, to recover.”

“I was thinking you might have died.”

 “Not yet.” I sigh.

“Thought you might be dead.”


“You look alive.”

I resist the urge to squeeze my stomach as proof, thinking of all the wine I drank and the desserts…oh, and the snacks and the chocolate and the second helpings of all the family meals I ate over the holidays. In truth, I should be dead.

“No heart attacks?”

Shaun, I realize, is in no hurry to get back to the track. He keeps staring down at me, now fingering his goatee. My plan to revive myself in the gym today is falling apart. So much for my goal of fifty sit ups, one hundred squats, and twenty push ups.

Fuck this.

“Heart attack? Me? Not yet, but clearly I’m working on it.”

I struggle to stand. Too heavy and too out of shape to get up gracefully, I grab a bar on one of the stairmaster machines and pull myself up. Now situated on my feet, I look around, hoping others too are suffering from the same torture of being back in the gym and carrying so much extra weight.

Shaun watches me, hands in his hoodie.

“You look like shit. No stroke or brain aneurism?”

Clearly Shaun is going through a checklist. Next he’ll be asking about venereal diseases.

“I think I am in the middle of an aneurism right now,” I say to stop the countdown and, perhaps, explain my feebleness in getting up from the floor. I wipe my forehead with my towel and put it around my neck. I feel my wrist to see if my pulse is elevated. It’s not.  It must be a sign for something.

“Christ, Christmas nearly killed me.”

This is my excuse. I stick a finger against a vein on my neck. I am wearing black shorts and a white t-shirt that is way too tight. The towel doesn’t extend to my waist and Shaun can see that the pudge is back and pushing hard against my shirt. I detect no pulse in my neck. This too must be a sign.

I will myself to be dead. I am dead. I am dead.

“And the marathon?”

“Oh that – that definitely killed me.” Fucking marathons.

“It was on television, but I didn’t watch.”

“You didn’t miss anything. Just a bunch of crazy people. Besides they never show anyone in the back.”

“But you finished.”

“Yeah, just barely.” I sigh, then take a deep breath and exhale slowly. “At one point or another, I think the entire country of Kenya passed me.”

“Kenyans always win these races.”

 I nod at that. Fucking Kenyans. What can I say?

“Saw that tennis star ran. What’s her name – she ran it.”

“Yeah, I saw on the news. Caroline somebody. She won the U.S. Open, I think. She too beat me by a good forty-five minutes.”

“It could have been worse,” Shaun says. “I read she barely trained and went to a Halloween party before the race Sunday.”


“That’s what I read. She’s pretty cool.”

“I guess.” How would I know? Fucking Caroline somebody.

“Anyhow,” Shaun says, “a bunch of NBA stars ran it too. Did you see any NBA stars?“

How would I know?  What does a fucking NBA star looks like?

“I guess so. Everybody passed me. Tall people. Short people. Anybody who was anybody: fucking NBA, NFL, baseball, ballerinas, ball boys, you name it. They all ran by me. I should have asked for autographs. If I hadn’t been dying, I would have.”

Shaun scratches his head. “It couldn’t have been that bad.”

“Disaster comes to mind. I’d say it was a disaster.”


“Yeah,” I sigh again. “Though fiasco works for me.” Fucking fiasco.

Shaun pauses at that. “So what’s next? Are you going to run it again?”

Oh. What’s next…? I smile at him like I am crazy. Like I really am having a brain aneurism right here, right now, right beside him in this fucking gym.

“Boston,” I say. “I got into the Boston Marathon. I’m supposed to run Boston in April.”

Now he knows: I am suffering from delusions.

“April! That’s coming right up.”

Shaun can’t resist. He can see I am totally out of shape, but he asks the question everyone asks when he or she hear about the race:

“Are you training?”

Oh jeez, I can’t believe he’s asking me this with Boston just around the corner.

Fucking Boston. “Yeah…”

“So you’re running?” That’s the thing about Shaun – he can be persistent.

“What do you mean, exactly?”

I stare across the gym – some guy is on one of the treadmill machines; he’s running fast like a crazy man. The treadmill is whirling like it’s going to blow up. I’ve been on that machine. That guy should be me. Was me way back when.

Shaun frowns at my question. Like my response doesn’t makes sense. Like, let’s be real, there’s not too many ways to define running. You throw one leg out there and then follow it by throwing the other. You do this repeatedly and voila!

I know Shaun is thinking: are you voila-ing or not?
But isn’t life a marathon? Don’t we start running at birth and finish at death and don’t we suck down Gatorade at all sorts of stops along the way? Aren’t we all runners in the larger scheme of things?

Shaun interrupts my thoughts, my realization of man and how we all are Kenyans in the eyes of God.

“I mean,” he says, “like… uhhh… are you running?”  Like, duh, how hard is this to answer?

Shaun, let’s be honest, no, but didn’t you notice, I’m doing sit ups instead. No, but I plan to run my cul-de-sac two hundred times this weekend. No, but I bought magic beans from a homeless man and he promises I will have a red flame shooting out of my butt by April. No, but I hope to commit suicide the night before and don’t want to be all sweaty. No, but what the fuck? Isn’t life a fucking marathon?   yadda, yadda, yadda…. I sigh.

“Yes, of course, I’m running.” I lie. “With the marathon ten weeks away, wouldn’t it be insane not to be running?” I shake my head.

I have got to get my act together. I’ve got to be, once again, that guy on the treadmill. A treadmill machine. Me.

Fucking Boston.

“Good.” Shaun says. “I wouldn’t want you to have a heart attack.”

Or syphilis.

“What about kickboxing? Can’t that help? I thought you were hot and heavy about kickboxing.”

Ugh! I stopped kickboxing back when I tore my hamstring in the spring and then with the recovery and all, I decided to wait until after New York, until after the holidays.

“I don’t know.”

With my old trainer, Albert from Hell, lurking in the kickboxing gym, plotting to kill me if I show up, it would be so, so hard to face him with all the weight I have gained. Fucking weight. Fucking Albert.

I could punch a fucking punching bag right now.

“I have to give it some thought.” 

I laugh almost to myself. In truth, I’ve given up kickboxing for sit-ups and that’s not going well either. 

"Shaun, my friend, I am too old for this shit."

When did I get so old?

Besides, it’s already too late. Boston is in ten weeks.

Shaun points to the track. “You want to walk?”
There was a time when I couldn’t get around this track; a time when running a 5K was extraordinary; a time when a 10K was considered a feat that few in the gym could master; a time when running a half-marathon was remarkable; a time when doing a marathon was a miracle, a miracle for everyone, everyone involved, everyone who knew me; a time when all of this was so wonderful, so awesome, so true.


“Let’s do a few laps and then lift some weights.”

“You know,” I take a large breath, looking around the gym, “it’s all good.”

Shaun nods his head.

Maybe a few bumps and bruises between us. 

It will be good to walk the track.


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