I was anxious to return to the gym today after my successful treadmill run last night. Although I dislike the treadmill, it felt great to be back in the running groove and I wanted to ride the momentum and accumulate some miles before the next snowstorm. I didn’t have much of a plan, but hoped for at least 4 miles.
When I arrived at the gym, I headed to the locker room to remove a few layers and change from my snow boots into my running sneakers. With my back to the entrance, I overheard a woman speaking to someone. Judging by the conversation, I had to assume it was a small child. “Just sit here for a minute while I get ready”. “Do you need to pee before we go out there?” Eventually I turned around to head out of the locker room and did a double take. That was no small child. The woman was talking to an elderly man! There was a man in the ladies locker room! Now, it’s no secret that I have very little tolerance for children in the locker room (remember when the little boy scolded me for wasting water?). This was a whole new level of awkward. I glanced around wondering if anyone else was completely creeped out, but I was alone with this odd couple. I silently thanked God I didn’t have to change my bra while I was in there and quickly stuffed my bag into a locker. When I got closer to the couple, I realized that this man wasn’t just elderly, he was blind. I softened, realizing that not only was he no threat, but the woman who brought him to the gym was remarkable. As I was coming to this conclusion, I heard a gym employee walking into the locker room giving some ladies a tour, proudly showing off the “ladies only” workout room and ladies locker room. I wonder what the potential clients were thinking. My guess is they left abruptly and headed to Planet Fitness.
The gym was full of activity today and there was a thick sweat hanging in the air. The row of treadmills was unusually busy and even more amazingly, most of them were occupied by runners. On most days I’m one of very few runners while the rest of the people are casually walking, watching TV or reading a paper. Today everyone seemed to have the same idea: log the miles by whatever means necessary. Seeing so many other runners on the treadmills was energizing. This would be almost like a group run. I hopped on a treadmill, turned on the TV, and started my run. I was immediately thrilled that my foot was having a good day and there was no pain. I channel surfed until I landed on TNT, which was playing the movie Kill Bill, Vol. 1. I have decided that this is the single most motivating piece of television to run to on a treadmill. Watching Uma Thurman slaughtering people mercilessly was so dark, raw, scary, and positively energizing in a really creepy way. I marveled at the irony of watching her character struggle to move her paralyzed legs while I was continuously increasing my pace.
I buzzed along the treadmill, watching the one woman killing machine on TV, and spotted the elderly man and his companion moving, at the most painstakingly slow pace, towards the treadmills. I was so intrigued by this that I just couldn’t look away. The thought of an elderly blind man using a treadmill was both intriguing and terrifying, and I felt compelled to be at-the-ready in case the woman fumbled and the blind man faltered. After an eternity, the man was securely atop the treadmill and began moving. At first I wondered why anyone would go through all of these lengths to bring a blind man to a gym, in the snow, to walk at .5 miles per hour. Then I wondered what his story was. Maybe he was a war veteran. Maybe he was a runner in his heyday and this was his way of reconnecting with his youth. In any event, for this blind man, a walk on the treadmill may be the most freedom he ever feels. I considered the irony of this, since for me the treadmill represents confinement and claustrophobia.
I continued along my run, legs easily moving as I cranked up the speed consecutively every quarter mile. Nothing hurt today. It was a great feeling to be back. I happily ran, alternating between watching Uma Thurman slicing people in half with the woman carefully doting on the blind man. Ironically, both of these very opposing philosophies gave me energy. My 5 mile run was a breeze and the time passed quickly with all this entertainment. By the time I completed my run, the line of treadmills was again bare. The blind man was helped off the treadmill by a group of people and excruciating caution. All of the runners had long since retired. Uma had killed more deserving victims. Victories all around today. J