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As others jog for joy, I plod grimly on.

The Long Run

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Vice President Al Gore's campaign staff "sent him on a jog" the other Sunday, the television reporter says. Roll the footage: There go Gore and his daughter, zooming along, floating it seems, waving to a bunch of reporters. Look, he's so relaxed. His daughter is smiling! Joggers always seem to enjoy jogging. In the Fan, a jogging club takes to the streets in the late afternoons. Imagine, a club for jogging! Those are some jogging-loving people there. They can't get enough. Joggers practically run over cars on Monument Avenue. The other week, the SunTrust Richmond Marathon drew tons of trotting people. Cold, but happy. Since when did jogging become such a blissful escape? This is not how I feel when I jog. It's not how I look, either. First, there's the whole breathing thing. I try to breathe through my nose. Not enough air, though, so my mouth hangs open. The wind dries out my throat. Then I have to swallow. But I have to close my mouth for that, so by the time I open my mouth again I'm out of breath from not getting enough air through my nose. I can't force a smile. My ankles certainly don't feel relaxed and happy, either. With every step, they seem to yell at me. It's not my fault. I stretch. I buy the right shoes. There's support in there, I'm told. Some $78.99 worth of support. It's scientifically sound support too - tested on the likes of Michael Jordan. Yet the shoe's ankles tighten. They fight me. My feet thud. I cannot breeze by television reporters and wave. Relaxed? My mind doesn't think so. It alternates between two thoughts: An inner coach threatens guilt if I don't keep going. You're almost there, he says. I know I'm not. Invariably, though, that thought is drowned out by some annoyingly stupid song that takes over my head. The rhythm usually matches every step, so the song never goes away. Over and over. Keep going, the coach sings: "(Step) Whooo let the dogs out? (Step) Woof … (Step) Woof-woof-woof." Not working for me. I can't holler gleefully: "Feeling great! I trust the American people!" Maybe I take jogging too seriously. I mean, everyone else is enjoying themselves. Presidents of the United States, who must know something about stress, always seem to find release in a jog. The guy I see jogging in the Boulders every day - every day - nods hello to me when I drive home. Where does he get the energy to nod? Besides that, even his weird green warm-up suit seems happy. And what about Joggin' In a Jug? I can think of no other beverage whose namesake is a sport. You'll never buy Canoein' In a Can. That settles it. Yes, I will love to jog, too. I will smile. I will wave. I will trust the American people. I will jog and clear my mind and think about the sweet meaning of life. First thing

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