Monday, January 31, 2011

nugget #21

Manly Yesteryear vs. Femanly Nowyear
By Bill Donnelly

            I know I have already hinted at the fact that runners had better race times Back in the Day partially because we had more manly names then as compared to now.  A recent episode made me think more about this phenomenon, and made me rethink my whole hypothesis.  In so doing, I realized I was on to something, and so through much careful scientific and Intelligent Design type thinking, I have expanded on my theory (although it seems so logical one can hardly call it just a “theory” but rather “fact”) and share my amazing findings with you, the reader.  I offer you this in the Checkers Chatter because all the major scientific journals turned me down cold.  Pompous numbskullheads!
            So first, back to the incident that triggered my amazing brain towards tackling this observable fact.  Early one morning a certain someone, who of course shall remain anonymous, but whose initials are Diane McGuire, was using a Q-Tip to clean her ear (you should have seen the ball of wax that came out of that portal, could of polished my car with it) and I noticed that she was holding it as if she were holding a tea-cup while eating crumpets with the Queen of England.  You know, holding it delicately between her thumb and forefinger, while keeping the other three digits in an upward position as if she were at the local watering hole and ordering three “Sidecars”.
            I, trying always to be helpful in a constructive way, pointed out to her what a femanly way it was that she was holding the cotton swab.  She, being the wit she is, replied: “Oh, and I suppose Back in the Day the manly thing to do was to push the thing in one ear and out the other ear!”  I had no answer, because I couldn’t hear her.  You see, Back in the Day I used to clean my ears in the manly style by pushing the Q-Tip in one ear and out the other ear.  My ear drums are shot, but fortunately there was little brain damage. 
            She repeated herself, and once I was able to read her lips, I had to start the thought processes that eventually gave me quite a headache, but also led me to my “MANLY Theory”.  The letters in “MANLY” stand for “Most Are Not Like Yeti”.  I know it doesn’t make much sense, but my manly mind was so tired from all the thinking I had to do, it was it best acronym I could come up with to spell out “MANLY”.  Don’t you just love acronyms, they take such creative thought.
            Back in the Day, everything we runners did had to be Manly.  Even the cleaning of our ears, as I have already pointed out.  Now for you kids out there, listen to Mom, and never stick anything smaller than your elbow into your ear.  My lack of hearing is the perfect example of why not to do this.  However, listening to his Mom proved to be a bit of a tragedy for one local Manly runner, Douglas Macarthur Kabibble.  A fine runner who always followed Mom’s advice, he tried to be too manly and he tried to clean his ears with his elbows, and unfortunately, both elbows got stuck permanently.  There was nothing the doctors could do to help him.  He managed to get by until one day in 1983 he tried to pick his nose with his big toe, and you can guess the rest.  That’s right; the old toe was stuck tight.  On a family trip to Maine the next fall, while he was hopping through the pine forest, he was mercifully put out of his misery by a young hunter named Dick Cheney who mistook Douglas for a one-legged moose (or was it a giant deformed quail?).  Anyway, it was a Manly way to go.
            On a lighter side, I do believe that the more manly way we dressed Back in the Day was directly responsible for our faster times.  No girlie-man tights or femanly new-age fiber tops for us.  True, they didn’t exist back then, but tut, tut, no matter, we would have worn only clothing made of manly cotton anyway.  It was just the manly thing to do.  And boy, did it help us improve our times.
            You see, as I have pointed out before, most of us would wind up running together around Delaware Pare on any given day.  I have mentioned in past articles that we rarely followed a running program, but when we ran together we invariably ended up going faster and faster, basically ending up running a pace run almost every day, and getting in great distances at the same time.  The more I thought about my MANLY Theory, and the more I tried to make the facts fit the hypothesis (this is where the Intelligent Design concept comes into play), I came to realize what part wearing manly cotton played in our daily speed workouts.
            Simply put, nothing says manly like stinky, sweaty underwear, and that is what we ran in.  Cotton shorts and tee-shirts, and in the winter, many layers of cotton.  We would sweat tremendously during the run, then go home and drape our running duds over lamps, chairs, and shower rods to let them dry for the next day, where upon we would reactivate the sweat already there while adding to it.  This UMASS (our acronym that stood for Unmistakable Manly Attire Sweat Stink) would build until wash day, which for most of us manly runners was the third Saturday of the month.  Unless of course it was February, and since it was such a short month, we could skip wash day altogether for that month.
            Now, when we would start gathering during our runs, UMASS would start to kick in.  Running alone, one doesn’t notice ones own sweat stink, but once our species starts to gather in gaggles, that stink starts to kick in.  No girls, I’m not saying that we manly men ran faster because the UMASS triggered our testosterone in some manly competitive manner.  No, what I’m saying is that we manly men realized we had to run faster and faster in order to outrun the STINK!  Another acronym we had (we thought acronym to be rather manly Back in the Day), and this one stands for Sweaty Thick Icky Nasty Krapp (we stretched it at times).
            That STINK was like a living, breathing thing, and the more of us there were together, the bigger, nastier, and faster the Stink was, so of course, the faster we ran.  There used to be a permanent path around the park where we ran.  I always thought us few runners wore the grass away, but now I realize how wrong I was.  The Stink residue killed the grass.  Why else are there still parts of the path exposed where no grass grows to this day, even though no one runs there anymore.  Why else did the Parks Department cover the rest of the old path with cinders and asphalt?  I believe they are trying to hide the “Brown Field” that lies under it.  Just beware when it rains heavily around here, you may notice the oozing, bubbling puddles of stinky goo seeping through the cinders.
            Of course wearing smelly cotton wasn’t the only manly thing we did that made us faster.  We also ran 80 to 100 mile weeks on a regular basis.  It’s amazing how far one had to run before the STINK grew weary and gave up.  But the “100 mile per week” program was actually sponsored by the U-Ride-Em Motorized Wheelchair and Scooter Company.  The company, which I believe was a subsidiary of Runners World of Pain, the first magazine just for runners, hoped to capitalize on the running boom going on.  Actually, I believe they hoped to capitalize on all the manly runners who would need their product several years down the road.  Talk about patience.  The company does make some manly looking motorized wheelchairs, or scooters, and many of my past running buddies do use them.
            As an example of a typical manly runner from Back in the Day, I give you Irv Frawley.  A sub-2:40 marathoner and all-around good guy, Irv was sometimes manly to the extreme.  I once did a training run with Irv, who was just over ten years older than me, and we ran on the sidewalks of
Delaware Ave.
from Delaware Park downtown and back.  When coming to each intersection, Irv would man-up and, without slowing down or looking both ways, speed across said busy intersection.  He figured it was up to the motorists to avoid him, for as a manly runner, he had the right of way.  I only did one training run with Irv.  He was just a bit too manly for me, and I didn’t want to be the hood ornament on some Ford Mustang.
            Not surprisingly, Irv was an ex-Marine who carried the manly Marine lifestyle over into his family life.  I remember seeing a feature on him on the local news in the mid-seventies.  It was about the ex-Marine/marathoner/manly guy and how he lived his life.  They showed him and his family enjoying a picnic.  His three young kids were off playing while he supervised his mess-sergeant, err, wife who was doing the cooking.  When it was time to eat, out came his whistle, and two shrill blasts let the kids know to come running immediately, and I mean now!  He explained to the reporter that the kids’ whole daily routine was set to a code of whistle blasts (I think five blasts meant time to go to the bathroom).  Anyway, I believe I heard that two of his kids now live on a commune in California they helped start, and the other lives in a Shaw Ling monastery somewhere in West Virginia.
            Irv’s true manliness is shown in the way he celebrated the Bicentennial of our country on July 4, 1976.  Seems he and Fred Gordon were training together in late June of that year and wondering how to celebrate the approaching big day.  Remember, Fred is the one who started the tradition of the New Years Eve run in Delaware Park, a tradition that lasted many years, and rumor has it a couple kooks, err, “dedicated runners” still celebrate the night by running around Delaware Park at midnight and then trying to find out who broke into their cars.
            So it’s not surprising that these two “dedicated runners” decided it would be neat to celebrate the 200th birthday of the US of A by running 50 miles.  How does that fit the holiday you ask?  Why, they would do it on a quarter mile track.  Get it, 200 laps, one for each year.  YOW!!!  So bright and early on that hot, steamy Fourth of July, Irv and Fred met at a local high school track and proceeded to count off the laps.  Now, Fred was recovering from an injury and could only accompany Irv for the first 40 laps.  He then sat himself in the stands and dutifully counted the remaining 160 laps, one by slow one, as Irv manly completed his own personal tribute to our founding fathers. 
            I do believe that it was Benjamin Franklin who wanted the Declaration of Independence to say “Not all men are created equal, for some are more manly than others.”  He was thinking of Irv. Fortunately, cooler heads among our founding fathers prevailed.  I haven’t seen Irv in more than twenty years, but if you ever do see him riding along in his U-Ride Em Motorized Scooter, give him a manly wave.
            I could come up with many more examples of how manly we runners were Back in the Day, but I think the example of Irv Frawley says it all.  We were a manly bunch.  I know the title for this article leaves a lot to be desired, but it was the best I could do.  I wanted to use an acronym, and I had one in mind, but I’m just too tired to put the right words together. 
            Hey, maybe all of you could help me.  My title was going to be the acronym that spells out IRISH SPRING.  Get it; remember the motto for that product, as a beautiful babe says: “Manly yes, but I like it too.”  So if all you guys and gals would work on this, maybe we could come up with a great acronym.  Just put your ideas on the Checkers’ Forum.  I’ll get my brother, Tom, better known as Bill Donnelly’s slow little brother, to be the judge, since he never has anything to do concerning the club.  The winner will get an original signed copy of this article.  Second place will get two copies.  Wow, this could be great, but remember, try to keep it manly.       


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