Friday, February 17, 2006


Every so often the thoughts of yourself and the thoughts of others inevitably, simultanously intersect, if not collide. For me, yesterday was one of those days. The common intellectual conception shared by both myself and my old high school running buddy, Tim Ames, inexplicably, but somehow appropriately, centred upon of the most treasured common links that conjoin all runners, amateur or professional, past or current: spit.

Tim mentioned, via email, appropos of nothing at all, that there must be some weird kind of shit to be extracted from the DNA of the passing spit hocked by runners. And just yesterday, while doing some laps around the park that circles Baguio General Hospital (an incline a little too hilly for my present condition), I thought to myself, appropos of nothing at all, before reading Tim's email, that runners surea s hell hork a lot of salive on a regular basis. Symmetry at work in the human mind, I say.

(On an extended side note, I hold young Tim at least partly responsible for the only attempt, failed as it was, that I've ever made at sleeping in a hotel bathtub. Or any bathtub, come to think of it. For in the spring of 1991, while competing in the Ontario track and field championships, myself and Tim and Darren Deguire happened to share a hotel room for a few days. Fine. Hunky-dory. No prob-lemo. Except for the fact that both Tim and Darrin happened to be steeplechase runners, which meant that they finished their races a day before I did, which meant that while I tried to rest my weary legs from the preliminary round Tim and Darrin were able to stay up late and cackle their asses off while watching a particularly ridiculous movie-of-the-week that centred around teenage drug users, while I lay in bed only a few feet away, pleading with them to turn it down just a little bit, until, around two a.m., I had finally had enough, deciding that the bathroom bathtub would offer me a better chance of rest than spending the night amongst two relieved, exhausted runners laughing their fatigue away. That's right -- I tried, to sleep, in a bathtub. Lasted about fifteen minutes, if that, but still. I've said it before: runners, especially high school runners, are fucking crazy, the proof being that I seriously tried to catch some zees in a freaking bathtub, and by the fact that both Tim and Darrin chose, intentionally, to race an event called the steeplechase, which involves running around the oval track while jumping over obstacles and trying not to land in deep, glorified, puddles. But I've forgiven them both in the passing years, the bathtub incident having been long forgotten until, well, yesterday. Good times, good times.)

But back to the spit. Saliva. Hocking a monster loogie. These are topics related to running, not to mention life, that are vitally important yet eternally shunned. We don't talk about these things in our polite,
please-pass-the-butter times of ease. I feel it's damn well time to liberate salive from the intellectual cess-pool it's been relegated to in the past.

So, with that in mind, here's my purely personal, concise, highly subjective survey of spitting etiquette that may prove to be useful to runners and those who walk by them.

VOLUME -- If you run a lot you will spit a lot, and the longer you run, the more you spit. Add some GATORADE or water into the mix, and your spit will be frequent and thick. You will spit a lot, and if you don't let it out, you'll swallow it. Which is fine in the beginning, but swallowing spit is not even an acquired taste, so it's better to let it out.

AIM -- When you spit, avoid hitting other people, and avoid hitting yourself. When I was a novice runner running races, spit was new to me; spit was a novelty. I didn't realize that the spit I was unleashing upon the world was somehow, via wind or my own inverted trajectory, ending up on my face. So I would finish my race
with a weary heart and a very gross face. You have to spit outward, away from your chin and your chest; and try not to spit too far behind or in front of somebody. Wait until your alone.

RACES -- When racing, you will still have to spit, and so will all the other runners packed beside you, so be alert and aware of what might come hurtling your way. If you're doing cross-country, you'll have a lot of open space to shoot at. If you're running track, you're even more confined, possibly even boxed in, so be extra careful not to land a loogie on someone's back or neck or even ear, Something About Mary style.

And that's that. I've written enough in this space about the highs of running, but sometimes the lows are in order, too. Spit is a part of life, and you won't read about it in Runner's World, but you'll read about it here.

I mean, after all, I'm university educated, internationally experienced, but I still once spent the night, or part of it, in a bathtub, so high culture you ain't going to find in this space.

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