The Tour de France will be starting in roughly a weeks time and with this comes an increase in spandex clad bicyclists on some very pricy bicycles. Yesterday in the blazing sunshine there were plenty of bicyclists passing by me while I ran in the afternoon heat for my long run. No great peloton, only a few here and there, always chatty with each other like they never noticed how bloody hot it was – like the wind was always with them and the road was always sloping down-hill. At times there is a look of surprise as the riders approach me, as if to say, my god, he is running. At least this is what I imagine they are thinking.
I am a great fan of the Tour de France and have been for many years, however, I would probably be one of the people that cheers from the side of the road in some sleepy French village rather than the nut-jobs who dress up in costumes and drunkenly run alongside the riders as they pass, only to fall on my face as the crowd gets too thick. In as much as there is the annual scandal over doping in the cycling world, I do think that the athletes are incredible. To crank out that much distance on a daily basis, and not only on the Tour de France, but all the other major cycling races that happen throughout Europe. My hat goes off to all of them for their incredible abilities.
Maybe it is the living in Germany that has made me begin planning for the months ahead in nervous expectation, but even as it is reaching 32 C on a regular basis I realize that these temperatures will not always be here. Eventually, I am thinking, it will be the opposite number with a big minus sign in front of it, and I wonder how I will keep up with my training when the roads get treacherous. An indoor bike standing mount might work, but I have no idea where to look for one, as I certainly do not want to have the whole stationary bike to add to my clutter. In some smaller way, I am trying to remember when I got my current running shoes. As my distances increases and I really start to rack up the kilometres it may be time to get another pair of shoes. Oh the internal debates of ones mind are so funny. I think to myself, well, should I get some trail shoes next, the rain will come and it is fun to run along the trails through the forest and fields. I suppose thinking of my shoes functionality is better than thinking if the colour will go with my outfit.
I was once part of a running club which had evening runs once a week that were part of a training session. You could go with some specific goal in mind, speak to the coach or the trainer and then work around a plan. Maybe it was to get a faster time, or go a longer distance, or to conquer the hills. I remember two young women who would come each week and the only thing these two seemed interested in was the idea that they could get into a sports store after closing so as to find more things to add to their wardrobe. Even the conversation that I would overhear when we all started to run, or when at the end of a run, gathered again all together for some stretching, was along the lines of ‘does this make me look fat’. ‘Do the pink highlights of my shorts go well with this shirt?’. This was totally foreign to me as I often go running (in public) with mismatched clothes, sometimes the clothes I wear wouldn’t even qualify for ‘running apparel’.
Since when did we have to have the ‘right’ clothes to do an activity? The Swiss and German’s seem great at this game of wearing the correct thing. I wonder at times how often they will actually wear the same outfit. Everything looks brand new. The newest boots, trousers, shirt, backpack and walking sticks. Like they have walked straight off the pages of a store catalogue for this seasons newest looks. The same can be said about the bicyclists I see passing me on runs. Sure, there is a certain comfort when you have the bike shorts on, especially for long rides, but do we all need to step out of the house looking like we have just renewed our contract with one of the professional racing teams?
Once, while in the middle of leading a discussion in a Toronto university I was midway through one of the powerpoint presentations when I froze up. I became completely distracted with a scene out of the window looking onto a treed boulevard. I often speak with little to no notes, so I guess I am good at speaking comfortably infront of groups and rarely feel caught off my game. But when I saw people with running towards something with cameras in hand there were enough people to make me wonder what had happened. As it turns out, it was some kind of annual Naked Bike Ride event and this seemed to gather a great deal of attention from those who happened to be out walking in this park-like setting. Riding a bike with not a single item of clothing. Two thoughts sprang to mind: Ouch, and Why?
There is definitely safety in numbers when it comes to standing out, be it those who wear nothing at all on a bike race, or those who are a pack of hikers in the Swiss Alps all clad in the newest of this years mountain fashion. It is our clan, our group, our people and we all have something in common. Some poor guy on the Naked Bike Race who must have had some technical problem early on in the event was shyly lagging far behind the peloton and blushing with embarrassment as well as red faced with extrusion trying to catch up with being part of an anonymous group of riders.
I have heard of naked running, and the same two questions spring to mind again – Ouch and Why? I don’t really feel that comfortable taking my shirt off when I run, even though I see this often with other men. I burn easily, even on overcast days, and I just think that I have the physical makeup that really needs to be showed off. There haven been days, however, that once I get within half a block away from home, that I am already wrestling with a sweat-soaked shirt and looking for a garden hose to cool off with in the hopes of washing away a layer of salt from my skin and eyes.