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Sex, lies, and videotape

Sit down for a private screening - and prepare to be shocked.

This column has very little to do with sex. (But I grabbed your attention, didn't I?)

Instead, it's about the big and small lies we tell ourselves, and about how the truth was revealed to me on videotape.

About 6 months into my running life, I ran past a storefront window and caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection. By then, my times had dropped from 16-minute miles to 10-minute miles (on a good day). I was convinced that the image I saw in that window would be of a lithe, fluid runner.

It wasn't. The image was of a short, fat man running very slowly.

I swore then that I would never again watch myself running. I convinced myself that it was pointless to confirm my suspicion that I was still stumbling forward as if my feet were bound at the ankles.

Years later, Jeff Galloway, a running friend and colleague, offered to videotape and analyze my running form. "Why?" I asked him. I couldn't imagine that anything about my running form (a word never before applied to my waddling) would interest him or me. But Jeff persisted, so I finally agreed.

That's how I found myself on a flat stretch of asphalt with a group of runners, a cameraman, Jeff, and a busload of insecurities. As I watched the others being videotaped, I felt the fear of a condemned person. When Jeff yelled for me to start, I thought my feet had become part of the pavement. I felt heavy, clumsy, and terribly exposed.

My anxiety was so overwhelming that I focused on everything at once. Where were my hands? Was my head up? Were my feet staying near the ground? I tried to remember everything Jeff had told the others. I tried not to repeat their mistakes. I barely remembered to alternate my feet.

When I finally reached the end, about 25 yards down the road, I felt as if I had suffered a thousand deaths. "Darn!" I heard the cameraman yell. "I forgot to turn it on. You'll have to do it again."


I walked back and tried it again. This time I was angry and the anger distracted me from my fear. I ran with race-day fire. I ran strong and confident. I ran with conviction. I ran naturally.

The fear of running was nothing, though, compared with the fear of watching. As I viewed those who had run before me and listened to Jeff's observations, I could hear my heart pounding and feel my palms sweating. Then, there I was - on TV. Trapped on videotape.

To my surprise, I looked like a runner. Not a very good runner, but a runner nonetheless. I had decent posture, my stride wasn't bad, and my footstrike looked almost perfect. My hands and arms were about where they should be, and if you looked very closely, it appeared that I was pushing off with my toes. Like a real runner.

I was embarrassed by my own fascination with myself. I'm not cursed with much of an ego, but this was different. There I was. Running. On videotape. And I looked like a runner! On fast-forward, I might have even looked like a fast runner.

But I was more embarrassed that I'd lied to myself. I'd ignored the progress that I'd made through months and years of training, trying to become a better runner. Instead of deluding myself into thinking that I was a runner, I had deluded myself into believing that I was not.

It's easier to stay where we are and see ourselves as we've been, rather than accept the inevitable changes that living brings. Sometimes, though, the truth is revealed right before our eyes.

Waddle on, friends.

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