Sunday, June 19, 2005

THE LONE JOGGER OF LaMANCHA.


Photo of the Carretera de la Patata connecting Cabanillas del Campo with Alovera: This jogger's timeshare in Dante's inferno.


I recently made the decision to begin jogging and—having survived the first two tortuous weeks—it’s now part of my daily routine. But being a jogger in Spain is a lonely life.

Contrary to the US (a nation in which 99.98% of the population practices some form of aerobic exercise—yet, curiously, drive their cars two blocks to buy a loaf of bread), jogging hasn’t gained a foothold in mainstream Spanish culture.

Sure, you’re apt to find some joggers amidst the yuppified hordes in Madrid’s Retiro Park—but things are much different in the pueblos. I can assure you, for example, that the only other joggers to be found here in Sanchoville aren’t those who wear Lycra® shorts and Nike® trainers—but rather, those who wear woolen coats and swaying, milk-engorged udders.

Given this cultural bias, I often feel self-conscious when jogging through Sanchoville. Granted, nobody has ever taunted me. Such ill-mannered behavior simply doesn’t happen in pueblos. But I can, nonetheless, feel the confused or incredulous stares upon me as I wheeze my way past the town square.

Old men gathered on benches in front of the Casa de Jubilados look at me with faces that say, “I’m too old to do that now. But even if I were his age…I still wouldn’t do it.”

Construction workers exiting Bar Alcázar seem to be thinking, “I spend my days hauling buckets of cement up scaffolding because I’m paid to do it. Is someone paying this lunatic?”

Then there are the teenagers. They completely ignore me—which, in retrospect, probably means that they view me as a father figure. But even if these fresh-faced, soft-bellied kids wanted pass judgment on my jogging activities, they’d have no right to do so. How could they? The muscles in their own legs haven’t been used since the day they received their first Vespa® at age four.

Having established that jogging isn’t a popular pastime in Spain, the question that dogged me was…why? Why aren’t there more joggers here?

My initial hypothesis was simple—Spaniards don’t jog because it’s difficult to do while smoking a cigarette. Lighting a fresh one could cost you an eyebrow. But I was forced to retract this theory after recalling the dozens of Spaniards that I’ve seen smoking cigarettes WHILE driving motorcycles AND wearing helmets.

I then decided to consult my friend Fernando—a Madrileño whose analytical dial hasn’t seen the “off” position since ABBA won Eurovision. His explanation—on behalf of himself and his country—was enlightening: “Except for the Greeks, I’m aware of no decent civilization that has praised more physical exercise than is strictly necessary. What in hell led a man who was not being chased to stand up and run purposelessly?! You MUST admit that this goes against any animal instinct.”

Then again…Fernando explained this theory to me via his car phone while driving home with a loaf of bread.
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3 Comments:

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's curious Sal, because, on the other hand, Spain has given the world excellent runners, and even the popular ones are very good across the world. You'll test it when you face your first 10k in Madrid. You will see yourself wondering where all those guys are when you jog alone and with no feeling of companionship. Talking about companionship, I am willing to run that magic line that ends up in Alovera. Pablo

 
At 7:20 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

It's a date, Pablo. They say that "All paths lead to Alovera." I'm on it frequently. Just choose your Sunday, and I'll bring the Aquarius.

Sal

 
At 10:15 AM, Anonymous amanda said...

gratuitous consolation

could be worse: i was once picked up by the local police for jogging in mississippi.

after being 'pulled over' and asked a series of questions that i can only guess i answered incorrectly (?), the officer escorted me home and instructed me to go inside and lock the door.

utterly confused (and pissed) i called a friend to rant about my growing dissatisfaction with my new town's local 'culture'.

"WTF?!? is it illegal to jog in redneckland or something??" i half-joked.

"well, not ill-legal," he laughed "but this isn't NY, y'know. people here don't really do that kinda thing. y'see, that cop who brought you home did it becuz he thought you were in some sorta trouble. ya gotta realise that in mississippi, if yur runnin, yuv gotta be running from somethin."

 

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