I have no illusions about how I look while I'm running: slow, sweaty, red-faced, white-bodied and probably grimacing.
Lots of other runners share none of these characteristics, it seems. Just today, I'm pretty sure I saw my 1970s-era Ken doll (immaculate hair, immaculate tan, immaculate muscle definition) gliding down my street.
But recently, I've stopped paying quite as much attention to their looks in favor of watching their gaits. Several months' worth of seeing panicky "are you striding wrong????" stories in my Google Reader account probably accounts for this.
And instead of feeling envious, like when I see sweat-free faces, I feel slightly uncomfortable — when people run, they look funny. Arms are sticking out from the body at 45-degree angles, instead of swinging smoothly; calves and feet move up and out, like they do while you're swinging on the playground ... limbs are moving in all directions, wildly, gracelessly.
Before the discomfort came the amusement — look at that clown! But, of course, I'd barely completed the smug thought that my arms rocked forward and backward smoothly, unlike crowd-clearer girl's, when the self-doubt interrupted.
Sure, when the going's good, I don't feel my body moving in strange, herky-jerky ways ... but that doesn't mean I'm not flailing like a kid at swimming lessons.
It occurred to me that I could settle the question of whether I look awesome or awful fairly easily. I could rope a buddy into recording me with my smartphone, and then I'd know if bikers were snickering at me as they passed me.
But it's like nutritional information on most desserts: Why would you want to know? It would either depress or discourage you.
I'll settle for being this image.