Having some Facebook friends who are prone to remind me of their superior physical condition and fitness by recounting their long distance running accomplishments, I was driven to research this peculiar phenomenon of running, once reserved for desperate circumstances such as escaping an enemy or a hungry bear, but now indulged in as though exertion were cake and sweat were frosting. At least one other Facebook friend feels the same way and recently confided to me that the act of running aimlessly and for long distances from one place to another mystified her. After much research with relevant medical authorities, accompanied by copious tea and chocolate cookies, I have determined the top ten reasons why you might one day get up inexplicably from a perfectly comfortable chair and run to a meaningless point somewhere, and then turn around and run back again:
1. Aliens have set your ass on fire and the only way to extinguish the flames is to run from them, creating a small vacuum in your wake, and so putting out the flames. This is probably not a common occurrence, but it is a suggestive one.
2. You might be training to carry messages by foot to Athens, announcing the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon, in the event that you are transported back in time just before the attack and Pheidippides, the Greek messenger, has a case of shin splints.
3. One day you woke up Amish, and your horse, Doughboy, was tired and slow. He has sad, brown weepy eyes and you could not bear to apply the buggy whip. To motivate him, you got out of the buggy and showed him how to run. Now he follows you everywhere, laughing and wishing he had some matches.
4. You are chasing "Spot" the dog, who you read about in first grade. He was Dick and Jane's dog. "See Spot run," the book informed you. "See Dick and Jane run." But the book never said where they were always running to or why. Was Daddy after Jane? You need to know. So finally, one day you resort to shouting "Come back, Spot," from the porch when your neighbors aren't around to observe you. But he doesn't come; so off you go.
5. You are being chased by fast, but invisible demons. They prefer to chase you around the house, and so out you go into the pouring rain in your Nikes. These are dry demons, apparently, and don't like the feel of cold, wet sheets.
6. You actually enjoy suffering, or at least, you enjoy making other people watch you suffer. Sometimes, if you have an audience, you fake a few signs of a heart attack, but then set off again, smiling heroically, showing all those walkers and car riders that you can overcome pain and even imminent death.
7. You don't actually run, except when people are watching. You mutter as you run, "If a runner runs in the forest and no one hears him crashing about, is he really running?" When no one watches, you simply stand and wait, jogging in place for hours.
8. All those marathons you claim to have run are lies and the photos are fakes. You are actually the greatest couch potato in the world, but Facebook is full of stupid people who believe everything they read there. You enjoy screwing with them.
9. You hear a man scream in the night and know the voice at once for that of George Zimmerman. You run in order to get the voice of George Zimmerman out of your head and also to get away from Shawn Hannity of Fox News who is stalking you, wanting an interview.
10. It is not George Zimmerman screaming. Your body has been occupied by screaming aliens. Your persistent fantasy of eating a goat cheese pizza topped with pepperoni ice cream makes them retch; they only have peace when they silence your mind altogether by making it focus solely on moving your feet. "Left right," you think and they are happy again. If, somehow, you resist them and fail to run, they have the power to light your ass on fire.