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Dr. J. on Running

Listen Son

Real Men Wash Their Own Socks

Published July 17, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

A special birthday is approaching. In August, my son turns sixteen. This birthday means much more than a learner's permit, growth spurts, new spikes or dating. On the serious side, my son knows my positions on drugs, smoking, sex and voting. At this time, there is a more pressing issue to discuss with my son. It is time for me to talk to him about becoming a real man.

My son needs to learn about running from perspectives he has never experienced, but aspires to understand. My son must accept the fact that other runners will finish ahead of him in races. Some of those runners will be women. He must accept that possibility and encourage their performances and abilities. Fortunately, he already knows that fast women are worth chasing.

My son must learn that real men take off their muddy shoes and socks before they enter the house. Real men also put their socks in the washing machine, add soap and bleach, and start the machine with a full load of like-colored clothing.

If my son finds himself sharing laundry facilities with a female runner, he must understand that some running apparel does not go in the dryer. He already has some experience on this front since the females in this household have lectured him on the reducing effects of high temperature on jog bras.

My son must learn that regardless of how miserable he feels after a hard workout, his partners may feel sore, tired, hungry, thirsty and cranky, too. As a man, he must be prepared to bring extra water bottles, share ibuprofen, listen to a friend's laments, and drive home after a race.

My son will soon learn, through patience and practice, that there are certain phrases that go a long way to ease the pain and discomfort of running partners, lest they inflict some on him. He must learn when to talk and when to listen, when to run fast and when to slow down. He will come to understand that anger makes some people run faster and others to quit races. He will learn to run fast and drive slow, salute tired runners and ignore angry drivers.

If my son vows to share his life and home with a running woman, he must learn that real men share pains and pleasures, parenting and training. Real men do not make excuses to get out of being with their families. Real men alternate racing with parenting to allow their partners to compete.

Real men, as my son will learn, know when to massage and when to knead, when to spread oil and when to rub cream. Real men know when to say "Looking good" on the roads and in the shower, on the track and in the truck. Real men know that few women run like Regina or look like Suzy, and real men know that real women run and sweat.

In two more years, my son will reach the legal age to sign-up for the draft and sign his own race entry forms. In two years, he will have plenty of chances to test his manhood on the roads and on the track, and may be even in the trenches. He will have learned that drinking on a hot run may save his life, and drinking in a hot bar may end it. He will have learned that some drugs relieve soreness, and other drugs relieve sanity. He will have learned that love builds homes, and lust destroys them.

I pray that my son learns well, for a real man carries the lessons learned on the trails into the trials of life. I pray that the second winds he enjoyed on the roads turn into second chances down the road. I pray that the discipline he learned on the track saves him when greed threatens to pull him off track. I pray that the sweat of his face with which he won races remains the only way to win his daily bread.

Kamal Jabbour can still beat his son at many races. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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