>People rarely stop to wonder why their interests so fascinate them. I mean, plane spotters might be able to foil the CIA but people whose idea of fun is taking pictures of aircraft and posting the tailnumbers on the internet can’t possibly have a great deal of self-awareness. (Hey! Who’s that on the phone! Is it the kettle?)
To me, the reason I’m a track fan is painfully obvious: track and its associated sports are fascinating. A close competition puts me on the edge of my seat like nothing else; while I find sports such as cycling or cross-country skiing entertaining, you just can’t beat a good footrace.
It’s been said that without sports, men would have nothing to talk about. When you run into another track fan, though, you’ve found more than a mere acquaintance. You’ve found another person who gets it, and those people are hard for anyone to come by. Not only can I still remember the people I sat next to at the the 2001 World Championships, but the 1987 and 1988 Ohio high school championships as well.
Right now I’m reading Dry: A memoir, a book both funny and terrible about an alchoholic’s attempts at sobriety. The author’s thoughts on making friends:
…the kind of friendship that’s easy to make in elementary school when you’re six or seven. You let a kid have your swing and suddenly he’s your best friend. Suddenly you don’t care that you hate math, because you hate it together…
[Then] comes high school, college, work. By the time you’ve started working, you’ll never make a friend as completely and easily as you did when you still wiped your nose on your sleeve.
Well, I still do wipe my nose on my sleeve but only when I’m out running. Running buddies are people you never forget, even when you move across the country and see each other just a few times a year. I know that teammates in any sport make deep and lasting friendships, but running seems different. Maybe it’s expecting, and getting, the other guy to show up and run fifteen miles when you know he’s got a pounding hangover because you’ve got the same one from the same party. Maybe it’s just the endless hours on the road with nothing else to do but talk (and eventually learning that silence is OK when there’s nothing to say).
As much as that, I think it’s because you can constantly find new people to run with; most athletes are done with competitive sports when they graduate from high school, and virtually all of the rest are done at their college commencement. But with running, you can take that singularity of purpose you had when you were sixteen and just had to beat that other school, and do it all over again trying to get a Boston Marathon qualifier when you’re thirty, or forty, or so old you can barely stand up. Try being that intense in your church softball league and they’ll all think you’re nuts (and with good reason). However, all your running friends both old and new not only understand your particular pathology but encourage it.
Here’s to the Superfan’s former teammates, competitors, and assorted other nutjobs. Maybe we’ll make a Real Men of Genius commercial someday.