The story of how I ran a 7 minute mile

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I know that I’ve written about a similar experience recently, but the same thing happened to me again today at the gym and I am so thoroughly grossed out by it, the story bears repeating.

In a previous post I mentioned that whenever I workout at my apartment complex’s gym, I seem to encounter, shall we say, less than fresh workout buddies. Call me too sensitive, but I have a severe issue with bad personal hygiene and nothing is a quicker deal breaker than having bad breath.  I get too easily offended by such odors.

I had a roommate in college who worked at an Italian restaurant and every night she would bring home some sort of pesto dish for dinner … and everyone knows that those types of food linger on your breath for YEARS and it takes at least three consistent brushing and gargling sessions for it to return to some recognizable form of normal. I rarely slept at the dorm, but whenever I came home in the morning, I would open the door and literally be slapped in the face with the smell of pesto that had been simmering in the room all night. It wasn’t her fault, but seriously … TRY ORDERING SOMETHING ELSE FOR DINNER.

And that explains why whenever anyone even utters the words “Olive Garden” my stomach turns inside out.

So yeah … I have an issue with breath that’s so bad I can guess exactly what you ate for dinner. Just ask Clayton. If we have anything oniony or garlicky for dinner, we watch TV in separate rooms for the rest of the night.

That being said, I skipped into the gym this afternoon ready to rock and roll on the elliptical machine to my new Bon Jovi Greatest Hits cd. However, all of the ellipticals were taken and the only cardio machines left to use were the treadmills. I ran yesterday, so today was supposed to be my day off, but you don’t really have to twist my arm to make me run more. So I stepped on my treadmill, jazzed at the sudden change of plans and prepared myself to run a steady 4 miles.

Then he walked in.

Now, I’m not one to judge (if you laughed while reading that, don’t worry ... I laughed while I was typing it), but the fact that he was wearing a sweater vest and a collared shirt with tear-away pants should have been my first clue that this was going to be an interesting experience.

And he looked exactly like Danny Devito. In fact, I thought he was Danny Devito, but then I mentally reprimanded myself for being so stupid as to think that Danny Devito would be silly enough to work out in a sweater vest …

… or be at my “residents only” gym on a Tuesday afternoon.

He got onto the treadmill right next to me and set his machine at an easy walking pace. Good for you, sir, I thought to myself. Get healthy. While I briskly jogged, I thought of all the possible reasons why this gentleman would decide to work out in a sweater vest: Maybe he took a late lunch break and has to go back to the office … maybe all of his t-shirts are in the laundry… maybe he’s just fancy … maybe he’s – OH DEAR HEAVENS, WHAT IS THAT SMELL?

I inhaled a stench that can only be described as every single rotting piece of garbage from every single New York City restaurant dumpster on a hot August day that somehow materialized itself 5 inches away from my face.

I briefly panicked, wondering if the smell was coming from me. But I knew it wasn’t. I knew for a fact it wasn’t me because I had previously rinsed off in the shower, applied body splash, brushed my teeth and mouth washed … and I hadn’t recently crapped my pants. I used my Nancy Drew detective skills to deduce that it couldn’t be anyone else around me because my nostrils were not assaulted until the very moment that Danny Devito stood next to me.

It’s okay. It will pass, I told myself as I chugged along. But then I made the mistake of breathing AGAIN and, judging by my gag reflex, it was evident that the smell wasn’t going to be leaving any time soon.

I couldn’t believe that this guy had the audacity to set his treadmill speed higher, and my body recoiled in fear as I waited for his breathing to quicken.

And it did.

Boy, did it EVER.

And you know how I knew that without looking?

Because I could smell it.

I tried my best to tough it out. Just keep breathing out your mouth, I reminded myself. Just take short, rapid breaths in and out of your mouth. Your body will adjust. You’ll run through it.

But then I could TASTE it.

I … could … TASTE … it.

I couldn’t hit the speed increase button fast enough. Screw 4 miles. I was going to crank out 1 and then bolt into another county.

Every time he increased his walking speed, I increased my running speed. Each one of his exhales resulted in my furiously stabbing at my treadmill buttons, willing the machine to take flight and burst through the wall out into fresh air.

My shallow breaths resulted in a debilitating side stitch that throbbed with every step I took, but I kept moving. The only thing I can tolerate less than tainted breathing air is giving up in the middle of a workout. I’m not sure which is sadder …

I couldn’t make the machine go any faster.

Finally, after a thousand lifetimes, I finally hit the one mile mark. I didn’t even let the machine slow down. I rode the treadmill belt and flew off the back in one fluid motion. I power walked to the opposite side of the gym, leaning on the wall for support.

And that is the story of how I ran a 7 minute mile.

I’m going to take that guy with me to my next mini marathon.

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