Thursday, March 15, 2012

Odd Runners

People are so strange. I was going to title this post 'weirdos,' but the bar for weirdness here in Salvador is pretty high, so I'll stick with 'odd,' as the people involved weren't exactly freaks. Unless you count me.

Funny thing happened today as I was running around the square...

Actually I had two funny experiences running around the square this week.

Since our time change, now that it gets dark at 6:00 again, the only place I feel safe running in the evening is around Campo Grande, so I've been doing just that a couple times a week. It has some real advantages: well lit, very flat, uniform surface so I don't have to look at the ground. On the other hand, it's pretty boring running the same 700 meter loop for forty minutes, but I figure it beats a treadmill. I call Campo Grande my gym. Probably should call it my track.

As you can imagine, I see a lot of the same faces there on different days, and there are new folks every time as well. On Tuesday, I found myself catching up to a guy I'd seen once before when he blew by me as I was staggering around the loop some time ago. At least ten years my senior, and clearly in much better shape than me. Tuesday I was doing what I've discovered is called a fartlek run, where I throw in some faster sections in addition to my normal pace. Turns out I was just getting to my faster-pace-starting-point when I passed this guy. I'm running along, having a blast, when suddenly I realize that this other guy is passing me now. He either was doing exactly the same thing I was doing, in the same place, or he didn't like being passed by me.

I decided to test my theory on the next lap. I slowed down and luckily he did too, so I was able to keep pretty close on his heels until I rounded the same spot again, and this time passed him very deliberately to see what he would do. He did exactly the same thing. I poured it on, he did too - finally we were both sprinting (or at least I was sprinting) and then I dropped back. I didn't get close to him after that- the sprint almost did me in. He stayed well ahead of me for the next couple turns and then disappeared. Like I said, much better shape than me.

I've been chuckling about that encounter ever since. I'm not a very competitive guy, so it's amusing to me that someone would make a simple run like that into a race. Next time I see him, I hope I'm relatively fresh because I'm gonna blow by him just to mess with his mind.

So the other encounter, today's episode: same place, same forty minute run, almost the same spot on the oval. I passed three slower runners, or thought I had, when suddenly I realized that one of them was running right beside me. Okay, that's fine, for a minute. People almost never run at the same pace unless they are actually running together. I, however, run alone and I pretty much like it that way. I certainly didn't want to run with a stranger, so I decided to step it up a bit and move past him more decisively.

He also sped up, running right next to me. In my zone. I didn't really look at him, but he was holding his hands in what could only be described as a prissy fashion. Oh no, I thinks, he's hitting on me.

I don't consider myself to be homophobic - I used to even find it kind of flattering when a guy would show interest in me, but I don't anymore. I don't even generally find it flattering when a woman shows interest in me, so go figure. I don't like it when guys flirt with me, it makes me feel awkward- I'm just not interested and I don't want to have to deal with it. I figure women (and other men too) have to deal with this all the time, so I can't complain too much - but it's annoying. But I've never had anyone hit on me like this before - instant running partner!

Speeding up didn't work, so I abruptly put on the brakes. He made a flapping motion with one hand as I dropped back, like he was encouraging me to take a break. Sorry dude, we are not running together. I run alone.

He slowed way down too.

Actually, I was in a similar situation once, except it was on a highway in Massachusetts and I was driving a tiny Honda Civic and the other guy was driving a big panel truck. I had pulled off to take a leak in a rest area that I quickly realized was a serious gay cruising ground. I didn't let that stop me from taking care of business, and the truck followed me out when I left. He rode on my tail for about ten miles after that no matter what I did - speeding up, slowing down, letting him pass me - he was definitely following me. It freaked me out big time, and I only lost him when I ducked off an exit ramp.

That episode was scary, today's episode was just silly. Dude was kinda glancing back trying to see where I was. Fuck this, I thought, and cranked it up. I read somewhere that that's how you're supposed to get away from a yapping dog if you are on a motorcycle- slow down, and then speed up. Worked with this guy- he apparently wasn't as fit as the old timer from Tuesday. I ended up doing a little fartlek stretch in spite of myself (today was not to be a fartlek day), much to the chagrin of my poor thigh muscles.

And that, my friends, was that.

I hope you have enjoyed my little story.