Often, but even more so since my Daily Pilot commentaries began appearing, a friend will open a conversation with, "You're a runner ..."
I tell myself, "OK, for the sake of this chat, I'll pretend I'm a runner."
The friend probably visualizes me running like the L.A. Marathon winner, with long graceful strides as she breaks the ribbon at the end of 26.2, doing five-minute miles.
However, running down Bayside, I look more like a short-stepping elf, tripping along the bike lane. Feeling the force of gravity press down on all 114 pounds, I struggle through my ninth or 10th mile. If you're thinking, 114 pounds isn't much, try carrying it on my skimpy frame.
In any case, I got a complex about my pitiful stride when I invited my husband to see me run the Harbor Heritage 5K in 1995. Knowing he watched, I killed myself rounding the track. Gasping as I crossed the finish, an official asked, "Need a paramedic?"
I took a few more panting paces to receive my husband's congratulations.
"We have to work on that stride," he said.
Years later, Mary, my physical therapist (for a bad knee) analyzed my run: "You keep your feet close to the ground like all distance runners, saves energy," Mary said.
So there, Paul!
My husband never comes to my races anymore. For one thing, I don't invite him. But now email writer Jake's taken over with his latest tough-love-marathon-coaching email.
"I know you keep a runner's diary ..." he starts out. "Figure your mileage and add no more than 10% a week."
He's kidding. If that's what real runners do, then I'm — as Jake said in a Pilot commentary on April 3 — an undisciplined beginner, even after 35 years.
Completing a pavement-punishing 14-miler, I don't think of recording anything. I stumble in the door to head for chow.
Extremely late for breakfast, I scoop up my oatmeal and organic oranges before anybody can say "runner's diary." After I inhale that, plus a banana, nuts and raisins, I search out anything that could be called dessert to go with my green tea.
At this point, I'm late for whatever I have to do that day, propelling me into the shower-and-hair-dryer routine so fast that you couldn't even say "10% more mileage," which I don't care to figure anyway.
Now you know I'm no runner. I'm an eater. However, I do give myself credit for one thing. I stick to a goal.
Once, the famous Bill Sumner, winning coach from Corona del Mar High School, told us, "I recruit runners from the high school music program. They are used to finishing."
Yeah, that's it. Count on me to plod along and finish!
And that urge to complete a run has given me a lot:
1.) A smaller hindquarter, considering I eat as much as my 200-pound husband.
2.) Diminished neurosis. Running myself senseless knocks out brain room for wasteful worry.
3.) At 69 1/2, no aches, no pains and no pills, except for a multivitamin for the mature adult.
4.) People think I'm a runner.
What the heck, Jake, I'll start my runner's diary.
Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is an award-winning teacher and runner whose articles have appeared in Coast and Sassie magazines and the Los Angeles Times.