“Run Like an Animal”

“Take a look at any school playground, see anyone jogging?

Our guess is no. In fact, what you will see is running. Running to the swings. Running down the ice cream truck. Running to pick up a stick. But not jogging. That’s because the act of jogging is a learned behavior. You see, somewhere between being told not to run in the halls and not to run with scissors, running morphed into a cautionary activity that’s done at the speed of chit-chat. And real running became dangerous. So it should come as not surprise that the majority of people grew up to be joggers, while sadly only a few continue to run. Next time you lace up, take a cue from our tiny-tot brethren. Run like an animal.”
~ Pearl Izumi ad (Runner’s World Magazine. p 65, May 2008.)

I love the above quote! It hits on so many levels. I only remembered the “run like an animal” bit and was planning to blog about just running, but when I looked it up again to find the source, I realized that it says a lot about life too.


I’ve never ever been fast. In middle school I was one of the kids who couldn’t run a full mile. I had to walk much of it at the back of the pack, complaining with the fat kids (no, I wasn’t a fat kid). By the time I got to high school I already had several patella dislocations under my belt. I favored the knee; I hated to run. I switched from offense to defense in field hockey so I wouldn’t be running as much, and I visited the school’s trainer everyday before practice to get my knee taped up to hold it together.

I’d say I average about two dislocations a year, and I can reset it myself, although I prefer to have someone nearby do it for me. One time in Montreal, two of my friendly neighborhood homeless guys set it for me. Following my first x-rays in high school, an orthopedic surgeon told me I would need a total knee replacement by the time I was thirty. Conventional wisdom, particularly from non-runners, says that running will only speed up the inevitable destruction of my natural knee.

I’m an active person, and over the years I learned that certain situations are particularly dangerous for dislocations, certain actions hurt one part, other actions hurt a different part, and some actions don’t hurt at all. Walking on ice really frightens me; when my heel slips inward and toes go outward, I dislocate my knee. The same thing can occur on on other slippery surfaces. I also dislocate my knee by bumping it on something, such as the corner of a coffee table. Hiking (which I love to do) downhill and stair-stepper machines (which I avoid) hurt in front, down low. Lateral movements (eg jumping jacks) and pivoting motions (eg side heel kick) hurt deep inside the knee. Tennis? Basketball? F’gettaboutit. Running on a straight, flat surface of any material? No pain. Ever.

I had another round of x-rays and saw a sports med doc the other day. It was my first appointment with this doctor, and my first visit to a specialist in several years (my crappy disaster-level health insurance kept me from taking care of ‘optional’ issues). I approached the situation as “I am an athlete not a criple. Please work within that context.” It was a good visit. He clearly explained things that are shown on the x-ray. For example the tendon that holds the patella to the lower part of the leg is normally only slightly longer than the height of the patella itself. Mine is much longer, so the knee cap goes slack and sits above its groove when my leg is completely extended. Every time I take a step, my knee cap has to find that groove. It is unlikely I have ever torn something (eg ACL), as my dislocations have been numerous and similar, but not severely traumatic. He also pointed out that my quads are different sizes; I’ve been subconsciously protecting my knee fro years, resulting in the other side doing more work.

The prescription? Long term…probably surgery (but not in five years). Short term…strengthen the quads. Running (not including marathon training) on roads will help me develop stronger quads, as will one-side-at-a-time weight lifting. The doctor actually liked my running gait better than my walking gait.

But I still have the speed issue. I will run races this summer, in part to work toward my someday goal of completing a triathlon. My gym has a 5K in May, which I think will be my first. There is also a 7.5 run/walk from landmark A to landmark B in June that interests me (perhaps because of the word walk in its title). I had originally been thinking I could do the 5K in 30 minutes (slightly better than a 10 minute mile… a snail’s pace for a 25 year old). But I want to do better than that. I plan to run like an animal.


We are taught to live cautiously, and in doing so we lose the freedom of childhood. Life could be so much more exciting if only we could rid ourselves of our inhibitions and chase down the ice cream truck. Remember how much fun that was? A 9-5 existence is frigin’ boring! Why must we always think before we act? Can’t we ever just be or ‘just do it’ (another sneaker ad)?

I know I live cautiously, but I’m too afraid to do any differently. How do I let go and get in touch with my inner animal?


1 Response to ““Run Like an Animal””

  1. 1 MSeeker2 April 22, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I have a knee cap problem too, so I definitely feel your pain. I’m due for a new one, but the technology isn’t there yet. Sounds like yours is a tricky lit’l devil, popping out at will. I never knew they have a mind of their own! Can an open patella sleeve help keep it in place while being active?

    I like your comment about ‘Life’; it has an ever fimiliar ring to it. Seems to me the trick in life is to find that delicate balance between the two worlds: chasing down the ice cream truck & the 9 to 5 anchor. Sometimes you wing it, other times you have to stop and think about it – this is an ongoing task for most of us. Kind of like an double-edges sword – both sides can cut you. Makes things interesting though, everyone’s different.

    Good luck running like an annimal!

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There is a Chinese Proverb that states: "A bird does not sing because it has the answers. It sings because it has a song." This is my song. I don't pretend to have the answers.

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