The library run

by Garrison Frost

Every few weeks, a sweat-drenched man walks into my local library shortly before closing time. Sometimes he dropped a book imprinted with soggy fingerprints in the return bin. Other times he pulls a tattered library card out of his sock and asks the clerk if a book he ordered has come in. And sometimes he does a quick, nervous browse through the fiction section before grabbing a book at random and checking it out. Usually if he checks something out, he asks for a plastic bag. And then, book in hand, he bounds out the door, across the lawn, and continues running into the night.

The man's presence rarely raises an eyebrow at the tiny county-run facility. Why would he, when the staff has long become used to the man who comes in every day wearing a dress and the others who are constantly testing the degree to which they can view pornographic material on the library's computers. Still, the man is something of an aberration, and if he goes unjudged it is merely because people have grown weary of judging the weirdos they encounter so regularly.

I speak of this man because I know him well. He is me.

My odd behavior at the library is a multi-tasking solution to a conundrum that comes up every so often. I need a book to read, but I also need to get some exercise – but I don't have time to do both. If I get in my car and go to the library, I will never do the run once I'm back, not with dinner and other things still undone. And if I go running, there's no chance I will shower, put on clean clothes and go out again before bedtime.

The library run, then, is convenient, particularly because the library is somewhere between two and three miles from my home through relatively flat, quiet residential streets.

There are few things geekier than running with a book in your hand. Every runner likes to feel athletic and strong, but something about having a copy of Chip Kidd's "The Cheese Monkeys" in one's hand while doing so turns the image sour. The geeky quality is made even worse when I get impatient to look at something in the book and glance at it while in transit. Then I am The Guy Running Down the Street Reading a Book. And what could be dorkier than that?

Perhaps some part of me is convinced that I am actually some kind of renaissance man when I do the library run, that I am both cultured and athletic, a rare balance between two opposite extremes. But no, I am no extraordinary specimen. Rather, I'm probably a poor example of both an athlete and an intellectual. If I just focused on one thing, neither club would embrace me. No, I'm just a dork out for a run that doesn't care what the neighbors think of him.

I read and I run. And sometimes I do them both at the same time.

(March 19, 2005)

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