In 1930, Robert Benchley wrote, "I am now definitely ready to announce that Sex, as a theatrical property, is as tiresome as the Old Mortgage, and that I don't want to hear it mentioned again. I am sick of rebellious youth and I am sick of Victorian parents and I don't care if all the little girls in all sections of the United States get ruined or want to get ruined or keep from getting ruined. All I ask is, don't write plays about it and ask me to sit through them."
It is 1978 now, and I would like to announce that Running, as a literary property, is as tiresome as Ruined Young Girls, and that I don't want to hear it mentioned again. I am sick of joggers and I am sick of runners. I don't care if all the people in the U.S. are running or are planning to run or wish they could run. All I ask is, don't write articles about running and ask me to read them.
I am tired of stories about movie stars who run, and grandmothers who run, and families who run, and Hawaiians who run, and children who run, and women who run and doctors who run—especially women and doctors who run. Run into the ocean, for all I care, run into the sunset, run off a cliff—but don't tell me about it.
I'm not just talking about stories that appear in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, even though we seem to have turned into a propaganda organ for the running cartel. They are everywhere. Today in the mail I received an article from a woman I met at lunch 10 years ago, telling me about the joy of training for a marathon with a six-month fetus thrashing about inside her. You can't pick up a copy of The Wall Street Journal or Popular Mechanics or The Plumbers Friend without stumbling over a story on jogging. The New York Times sports-editorial page puts readers to sleep each Sunday with article after article by prep school English teachers who have discovered running, to say nothing of running at dawn.
I used to think that the most tedious articles in sport were about harness racing, but articles on running are worse. This is because harness horses can't write and runners can. Or think they can. Also, harness horses aren't, in and of themselves, bores. Runners are bores, and the refuge of the bore is self-righteousness, which is why so much running literature is not only turgid but also smug. It reads like a cross between a horoscope and the pronouncements of Bowie Kuhn.
I have thought this out. Running is so palling that those who do it are either functional bores to start with or borderline cases with a bore wish. Either way, they can justify this activity only by telling everybody else about it, boring them even more than they are bored. Why do runners believe their monotonous sport has a monopoly on athletic fulfillment?
Can you imagine a baseball player writing thousands of words about the joy and beauty and satisfaction of playing a game of ball? He'd be hooted out of the league. Has Julius Erving ever felt compelled to babble on ad nauseum about the inexpressible thrill of a slam dunk? Has Nadia Comaneci ever cornered you at a cocktail party and told you for 45 minutes how she discovered dawn and a lower fat content through gymnastics? Has Bjorn Borg ever said he was dissatisfied with his life because he couldn't convince you to play tennis instead of watching Laverne & Shirley? Yet a housewife who jogs over to the shopping mall and back feels she has a license to lecture and browbeat and bore you about running.
Don't people have a constitutional right to be bores without running? Can't they talk about solar energy or Jerry Brown or show home movies? Can't they bring out their credit cards? Do they have to rise at dawn to be bores?
So spare me. I don't want to hear about it. I don't ever again want to read about the joy of running, the beauty, the ecstasy, the pain, the anguish, the agony, the rapture, the enchantment, the thrill, the majesty, the love, the coming-togetherness, the where-it's-at-ness. I don't ever again want to hear running compared to religion, sex or ultimate truth.
I have done some investigating of my own into running, and I have uncovered some hitherto suppressed facts. As a contribution to the nation's health and peace of mind, I feel it my duty to make them public:
1) Running is bad for you.
2) It is worse for women than it is for men.
3) It causes cancer in rats.
4) Psoriasis was found in five out of six running dentists tested.
5) Running causes impotence, except every now and then when it causes VD.
6) The Boston Marathon is only 17.4 miles long.
7) Pheidippides, who ran the 24-odd miles from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens—in effect, completing the first marathon—was actually a woman. The reason she collapsed and died after delivering her message was because she was a woman and it is a known fact that running a step beyond 1,500 meters is dangerous for women.
8) Running is boring.
9) The most boring runners write about it.
10) The next most boring runners talk about it.
11) These two groups frequently mate and produce little recessive bores.