A Cluster Duck Article
I’m a simple man; I enjoy playing video games (AKA getting verbally accosted by racist twelve year old suburban brats), procrastinating to do important things, going out of my way to limit my physical activity, stuffing my face with saturated fats and carcinogen-filled Twinkies (rest in peace, you little delicious cylinders of impending obesity and eventual death). Ya know, true red-blooded American type stuff.
So imagine my delayed surprise after the words “yeah, that’s sounds fun” escaped my lips in response to being asked to run (that’s right, I said run, as in walking so fast you’re not walking anymore) in a 5K; an obstacle littered, volunteer-zombie chasing, pretend you’re in a post-apocalyptic backwater barren wasteland (or Clermont, for short), no hope for survival unless you can outrun your attackers, three mile hike. Kill me. Please.
Now, you may be saying to yourself “wow what a lazy jerk it’s just a three mile run who cares I do that stuff all the time it’s called being active and exercising.” To which I reply, “I hate run-on sentences.” And also, I’M A SLOBBINGLY INEFFECTIVE TROGLODYTE. I’m not built for this, at all.
These events are reserved for young athletic rapscallions, active runners, and people who actually walk down their driveways to check the mail. In other words, everything I stand fundamentally opposed to.
But it was done. I’d sealed my fate. In six months, I was to take part in the “outdoor experience” with other people; living, breathing, socially adept and physically trained, human beings. Excuse me; got vomit in my throat.
What was I to do? I couldn’t back out of my obligation; my word is as good as the paper it’s printed on; which isn’t worth much, but I was trying to turn that around. Can’t be a crass, cynical, lazy prick my whole life… or can I?
The decision was made, pretty early on, that I was to (gulp) get in… shape. Which, a decade and a half ago, wouldn’t have been a problem. I mean, there was a time when playing marathon games of basketball was the dominant time-suck in my day, and the sun and I were on speaking terms. A rambunctious little blur of twitchy energy would have been an apt description of me. Hell, I even had calf muscles (aw yeah, ladies). But those days died off faster than a [insert appropriate analogy here… I suck at these].
Fast-forward five and a half months: I’ve been jogging, doing jumping-jacks, eating “healthy” (READ: fast food two nights a week instead of five), and just making an effort to power through the burning lungs and wet noodle legs from my body’s stubborn insistence to convince me that this was the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas. It didn’t matter, though; I was going to throw a 12-inch knife into this 5K’s sternum and quip “stick around”, Dutch-style (uncomfortable knee pat to anyone who gets that reference).
The actual event itself was a mix between outdoor concert festival and Ninja Warrior tournament. They had it all; live music, fried foods, scantily clad middle-aged men, and the kitchen sink! It was sort of infectious. The enthusiasm, the energy from a throng of younglings with their whole lives ahead of them, older folks with an ironclad grasp on their health, was starting to inspire me.
My inner pep talk was the stuff of legends: “Now it’s time to see if you have the heart. Now is the time to prove to yourself and to everyone out there that even though you are woefully out-of-shape, you are somebody. You are worthy of something… Are you ready to go out there and take what’s yours? What you’ve worked hard for? (Well actually, I didn’t work THAT hard.) Are you ready to accept the challenge?” And yes, before you ask, I ripped that off from Dwayne Johnson’s seminal classic, Gridiron Gang. But nevertheless, I was pumped, primed and ready to… puke, apparently (pro-tip: Don’t eat greasy food before exercising).
I kid you not, a half mile in (a three mile hike, a three hour tour [couldn’t resist]) I hit the wall; in the worst way. Ya see, the way everything is set up, you have obstacles (mud pits, freezing cold water you have to wade through under ACTUAL barbed wire, low voltage fencing, climbable walls, and did I mention a kitchen sink at one point above?) and freaking-frocking zombies trying to steal your flags! I had waking nightmares of being harassed by the bigger kids during middle school bouts of “kill the man with the ball” except this time I had three flags (which represented my health bar) and I didn’t cry (much).
Remember when kids liked Physical Education?
I was out for the count; expended what little lung capacity I had from my years of smoking on the first leg of the first mile by sprinting, and expertly dodging (I juked a few undead out of their socks, literally) every zombie I passed. I had to take a knee. My head was swirling, my legs wobbly, my chest tight…
Then it happened, after what seemed like a lifetime, through the muddy slog, the blood, sweat, tears and low voltage shock treatment, the obstacles, and embarrassment from losing my cool so early in the race, I crossed the finish line. Even though I lost all my flags, even though I was physically, mentally, emotionally, metaphysically, philosophically, ethologically (you get the point) EXHAUSTED, I’d finished; completed an event meant to promote physical wellness and fun through outdoor activity.
And I had a load of fun doing it. The event was executed without a hitch. The volunteers were friendly and hysterical (a particularly whimsical “fairy” zombie actually muttered to her fellow undead “aw, let him pass, he only has one flag.” YAY FOR ZOMBIE PITY). Come next year, after I pretend to get in shape, I’ll be doing it again, make no mistake.
After struggling to finish, I received a medal, took in a show, relaxed, and that night asked myself just one question: “How freaking badass am I”?
Answer: I ran a two and a half hour 5K, so not that badass. Figures.