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Relativity in action

June 19, 2009
By Bob Seidenstein,

Since I've always been both a community booster and a fun guy, it's only natural that I'd promote our summer Fun Runs.

I do, and I don't promote them abstractly but participate in them as well. You could, if you were so inclined, say I support them body and sole.

But with each passing year I've noticed the Fun Runs have become more "run" and less "fun."

Article Photos

“Team Dope” begins the Fun Run on June 11 in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Of course the change has nothing to do with the runs themselves but has everything to do with me. Or, as Jimmy Buffet so eloquently said, "I know it's my own damn fault."

What was my fault? Allowing myself to age, that's what.

Living in this age of miracles, the advancements in science, medicine, nutrition, occult arts and con artistry have either reversed or at least stopped the ravages of time (at least according to their own advertisements).

Anyhow, skeptic, Luddite and Dope that I am, I never took advantage of these wonders, and as a result, at the not-so-tender age of 62, I not only look my age but I feel it as well.

In vehicular terms, I'm the equivalent of a '46 Hudson Hornet with 350,000 miles of hard road on it. Even with regular servicing and a major engine overall, there's enough wear and tear and metal fatigue that it just ain't the buggy it used to be.

Headlights are dim, the engine doesn't stay tuned, and while the suspension isn't completely kaput, the shock absorbers have gone soft and sloppy.

Oh, it's good enough for spins around the block and occasional jaunts to Malone, Keene Valley and the like, but there's no way you'd ever chance a trip to Burlington or Montreal.


Taking a measure

What this means is, now when I go for a run, it's a run in name only. And likewise, the Fun Run is fun in name only.

Don't get me wrong. I'm delighted we have the Fun Runs, and I'm proud to be part of them. I even enjoy running in them - after I'm done.

And to make sure I get maximum post-run enjoyment, I put myself under the least stress during them. This means if I'm in good shape, I run the four-mile, and if I'm in less-than-good shape, I run the two-mile. And last Thursday, at the summer's first Fun Run and in far-less-than-good shape, I waited for the two-miler to start.

First came the kiddies' runs, which are always fun to watch. With all their madcap motion, tiny arms and legs going every which way, big smiles on their faces, they're a joy to watch.

While I waited for the kids' runs to end, I could've stretched and warmed up - but I didn't. Why not? Simple: I've jogged two miles without any warm-up thousands of times. Any longer than that might be a problem but not a mere two miles. Which is why when I heard the route for the two-miler, I knew I not only might have a problem, but I darn well would have one.

"That's a lot more than two miles," I said to myself, but aloud.

"No, it's not," said some kid standing next to me.

I looked at him. He was one of those lean, hard-bodied, fuzzy-cheeked whiz-bangs in his early 20s - as certain of his immortality and invulnerability as I was at that age.

"What?" I said, miffed. "You think it's two miles?"

"They said it's two miles, didn't they?" he asked.

"And because they said it, you automatically believe it?"

"Sure," he said. "They're running the show."

"So you believe everything you're told by people who run the shows?"

"For the most part, yeah," he said.

For the first time, I looked at him to see if he was smirking or winking or something to show he was putting me on. He wasn't.

"You interested in buying some oceanfront property in Arizona?" I said.

"I don't think living by the ocean's all that big a deal," he said. "Especially in a place like Arizona."

Sweet baby Jesus, I thought. For a long time I suspected young people have little sense of irony, but till then I didn't realize they had no sense of geography either.


The clod plods

My generational musings were cut short by the "Ready, set, go!" of the start, and off I and the rest of the pack went. I'd say I was bringing up the rear, but that's not true - I was the rear. And since I hadn't warmed up and had started too fast, I was in oxygen debt - and pain - as I plodded up St. Bernard's Street, turned left on Church Street, then right on Main.

I started to overheat, but got cooled off when the heavens opened and the rain started to fall.

By the time I got to Moody Pond, most of the other runners were flying past me - on their way out. And almost all of them shouted something along the lines of, "Lookin' good"; had they said it under oath, they would've been busted for perjury.

About halfway around the pond, I got my breathing under control, sort of, and swung into a regular if uncomfortable pace, which I maintained out of the pond and into Mackenzie Pond Road. At this point, all the other runners were out of sight and it became apparent that it's not just at the top where it's lonely.

Finally, I banged down Lake Flower Avenue to the run's end in Riverside Park. I was soaked and half-blind from sweat running into my eyes, my shoes alternately "squished" and "squooshed," and my breathing was more than a tad on the raspy side.

Traditionally, runners bust out into a sprint at the end. I didn't, but as I crossed the finish line and my time was called out, I almost busted a coronary artery: Thirty minutes and 40 seconds? Had I heard that right? I had. I'd averaged 15:20 per mile - faster than walking but not by much. All in all, it was a lousy showing.

As I was walking around the park trying to regain my breath and self-esteem, I was suddenly reminded of something Jean Keating had told me: When she was a young girl, she remembered Albert Einstein coming to Riverside Park and talking to the children. She didn't remember actually talking to him, but she clearly remembered he never wore socks.

Immediately after Einstein's sockless image came to me, I thought of the phrase he's most famous for - the relativity of time. And then it hit me - the relativity of not just any time, but my time, specifically my time in the two-miler I'd just stumbled through.

I left the park, went to my car and retraced the route. Sure enough, as I'd originally suspected, it wasn't two miles. Instead, it was a full three miles.

This meant I hadn't averaged a dismal 15:13, but (to me, at least) a glorious 10:13!

So thanks to Einstein's Relativity of Time and Seidenstein's Relativity of Distance, the Fun Run ended up fun after all.



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