Posted On February 1, 2009 By In The Phast Lapp And 489 Views


We’re all a little crazy. Aren’t we?

C’mon, admit it. We all have our little idiosyncrasies. We all, as they say, “break crazy” from time to time.

I eat my cookies in two bites. Not one, but two. I like nuts and I like Brownies. I just don’t like nuts in my Brownies. Hate it, hate it, hate it! I like to fold my own clothes a particular way, and hang them in a certain order. I tuck in my t-shirts when wearing them. I know that’s not the fashion. Sorry, that’s me.

But what about you?

The way you spread mayonnaise on bread; have to have the knife on the left side of the plate before you eat; tie your left shoe first, then your right; leave the house at a precise time; have the computer set in a certain place in a certain way; run the lake in a particular direction. All are signs of psychosis, some would say.

“Thoughts in the rain, walking on a bridge to nowhere. When you can’t remember your name, or know day to day what to wear.” Gone crazy? Maybe. Maybe not.

But to show our spouses we are still sane, and that we know the world is not going to fall apart when we don’t sit in our favorite chair, we sit somewhere else. Or what about when we just HAVE to wear red instead of blue? Do we know the day will continue without the insanity we bring to it?

Three miles into an hour’s workout can settle down a lot of anxiety. It can make us whole, human, and sane once again. It can bring us back to normal (whatever that is), help us hit our re-set button, and give us a sense of priorities.

In the May 2008 issue SCOTT STEFFEN said, “Running gives me serenity, spirituality, and a time to think about things.”

On most hour runs with my friends, we can solve all the world’s problems. Think we can get the UN to do that? Go for a run, I mean? I don’t see how it could hurt world politics. The Palestinians and the Jews; the Catholics and the Protestants; Republicans and Democrats; meat eaters and vegetarians, males and females; Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and Whites; Americans and, well,…everyone else, unfortunately.

Is it possible? “Gee, Wally, that would be swell!” the naïve person in me (or as one running buddy called me, “You poor diluted soul.”) says. Only, I really believe it. I really believe an hour or more of sweating with someone else facing the same obstacles of weather and hills can help bring about a positive change, an exchange of perspectives, and a letting down of one’s guard. “Gee, Wally,” even people I didn’t particularly care for before a run, can become my running partners as we find common ground and work out our differences, discover who said what to whom, and what was meant by it. After 30 minutes, someone’s got to crack a one-liner about something. Nobody is that serious.

After the run, however, I might not be inviting the person over for dinner, but the two of us have come to an understanding and will have no problem running next to each other the following day in a cordial manner.

After making some of the body noises runners usually make, it’s hard to keep your guard up. In that moment of “letting go,” there’s the realization we’re all the same, all of us, not one different from the other. We all fall into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. ALL of us fit on that one page.

Could you imagine the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union and the President of the U.S. having gas during a post-luncheon run? It suddenly becomes harder to discuss nuclear bombs as a deal breaker at the G8 Summit.

So are we crazy? Nah. Not really. We’re not any different than everyone else is different. We just need some exercise to chase away our demons. A good loop of the lake will do that, and turn you into one mellow person who can sit with anyone and stare at the TV.

A 30 minute workout session? It can also energize us to stop procrastinating and clean out that closet (of skeletons?).

In the end, though we all have a lot of commonality, we are an experiment of one, individual in our makeup, nuances, idiosyncrasies. What is slow for one person is fast for another. What might be considered crazy, odd, or just weird by one runner, is common, normal, and unremarkable, even unnoticeable to another.

How we talk before and after races, or workouts, might be vastly different. What we eat before events, in the order we eat it, can be peculiar only to us. The food we eat during and after our events might be a special elixir only we would use or could stomach, that we believe will help us to finish stronger, faster, giving us the edge over our competition.

I don’t care if you eat broccoli morning, noon, and night, or that you must lock all your doors at all times. Just let me go for a run so one of us is sane.

That talisman you carry with you for good luck? Go for it. Though you should put your faith in your training, if carrying around a rabbit’s foot inside your jog bra makes you think you’re running faster, do it.

“I’m in a hole. What began as a few clouds, have developed into storms inside my head. The wolves are at my door and they want to devour me whole. My sleep is gotten worse, no doubt building paranoia. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the day. I’m slipping.”

Your warm up, cool down, and night-before-the-race routines, the music you play (Mine was Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” from the Aqualung album – killer track! Although The Who’s “Quadrophenia” and Montrose’s self-titled disc worked well, too.), the clothes and colors we choose to wear (Pink or blue?) can all be sign posts of who we are and what’s going on inside. Maybe you are a perfectionist, who doesn’t and can’t do things half way. Being extreme is your craziness. It’s your way to deal with the craziness of the world around you. You, therefore, are bringing order to the universe. …Or so you think.

This might also include huddling with certain people during our workouts and before the gun goes off because we feel good around them, just like the stable mates of race horses. Crazy? Hardly.

Off the field of play, away from the race, and out in public, all bets are off. It’s here we must reflect some amount of decorum so we fit in, blend and merge with the rest of society. Showing up to work wearing only goggles and a Speedo might cause you to be passed over for a promotion or sent to HR for a “talk.”

Though we still might eat weird by our in-laws standards (otherwise healthy by our own), we are no crazier than the world we live in, the people we work with, and the people we exercise next to. So go ahead, wear the green plaid pants and orange shirt while talking to yourself in that cubicle.

Hole up in your room and become your own worst enemy, lest you think you are alone in the wilderness of training, as if we are the only one who is experiencing, or has experienced, the feelings of anxiety, depression, and obsession about our fitness and what others think of us. It’s been said that if we truly knew how little other people thought of us, we would be greatly disappointed.

“There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.”

Crazy? No, just being normal.

Chris Phelan has written, laid out, photographed, and published The Phast Times News since 2001. He’s crisscrossed Texas on his bike three times, swam 5 miles across Lake Ray Hubbard three times, completed three Ironman triathlons, and has represented the US in completion three times, and run with the Olympic Torch. He maintained All-American status for five years and has also biked across the country, 3600 miles in 30 days. The running/triathlon coach has PR’s of 2:27 marathon, 15:40 5K, 3:55 at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred, and 10:00:52 Ironman. Chris is the only person to have won overall and Master’s at Dallas’ Crosson Dannis road racing series, DRC road racing series, and the USAT/SMW duathlon series. In 1988 he began Dallas’ oldest track workout, 1998 started north Texas’ first treadmill class, and 2003 he founded the world-wide Ride Of Silence. He’s been twice nominated Master’s Road Runner of the Year, highlighted in a variety of magazines and is frequently asked to speak at camps and organizations about fitness. Outside of swimming, biking, and running, Chris has summited several mountains including Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.