Following a particularly acute supper, I waddled to the Tufts Univer­sity track for an atone up. 

    I know I'm not built for running because my feet don't have wheels, but running, I am told, turns back the biologi­cal clock.

    Since my advanc­ing chronologi­cal age has been neatly bal­anced by my declin­ing emotional age, I've pretty much broken even since puber­ty.  My scale, however, seems to get older each week.  I pity it.

    My entrance coincided with that of a middle aged, non ath­letic lady who really should have taken better care of her­self.  She was a real grown up. 

    The issue immediately presented itself of whether to let her go on ahead and then pass her, or sprint past early on.       The problem with starting a run next to a woman you don't know is that she might feel threatened; this is simi­lar to the problem of catching up to a woman walking alone on a city street.  Further, it is hard not pull away or drop back without seeming to make a state­ment.  Your pace is not your own.  Nor, conse­quently, are your thoughts. 

    So you're doing some­thing you don't want to do, next to someone you don't want to be next to, think­ing thoughts you don't want to have. 

    In any case, I would certainly be faster than her (did I mention that she was a middle aged woman?), not that I was immature enough to monitor such things.

    You are, of course, not surprised to discover that my normal pace matched hers, step for gruesome step.  Around and around.  Yard after merry yard. 

    And so we went, lock step without acknowledge­ment, joined by the coinci­dence of our natural paces; her so old and me thinking only of how to break free.  After 1.5 eter­nities, she asked how fast I ran, saying that she had for­gotten to bring her watch.

    "Not very," I said (ah, the self effacing modesty of the non-threatened male). 


    "I don't really care how fast I go, so long as I can stop," I added; salivating idiot!

    "I wasn't being critical," she said, therapeutical­ly.

    "I didn't take it that way," I panted non-defensively.  Oh, why did I say that!?  Now I really couldn't peel off without making it seem that I was, too, being defen­sive, and I couldn't quit for God knows how many more eternities without looking like I was quit­ting defensively.  And I had to answer her question.  I didn't really know, because you have to do something more than once to establish a numerical average, and each time I ran, my only thought, panted with monk-like tenacity was: "... never again, never again, never again..." 

    So I ballparked it: "Oh, about ten minutes a mile.  Maybe eleven."

    She nodded, satisfied. 

    I felt uneasy with my response.  Was I being defensive?  At my age?

    I only wanted to show her I didn't care.  How do you show someone you don't care?  Try it sometime.  Then try it without making a fool of yourself. 

    "I don't know,"  I added, much too much later, "maybe nine minutes.  It depends." 

    Her nod this time was perfunctory. 

    "I never really timed myself," I added, with heightened indifference.  Look at me! I don't care!

    No response at all.  She was on her own, slow trip.

    "What a jerk!" at least one of us thought ... as I raced past her.