A web of intrigue snares unwilling jogging recruit

When people say: walk, do not run to your nearest exit, they are not talking about me. I will run to beat the noontime food traffic at McDonald's; I will run to catch a bus for Dodger Stadium; and I will run on a tennis court.

But I am not the type who pays to join a jogging class; not while there are still reruns of Barney Miller on television.

What got me on my feet recently and moving with the speed of wet cement were my two oldest kids (now adults), who foot-fad it twice a week in a jogging class at Citrus College.

Let me say right now that I did not go willingly; that I was manipulated; that although the direct approach may have been considered, the idea of trickery had greater appeal.

I can just hear my daughter telling her brother: ''If we try to get Dad to go jogging with us, he'll never do it. You know how he feels about running. We'll just have to figure out another way of getting him on campus and then spring it on him. Maybe if neither of us had transportation some morning, we could get him to drive us to school.''

Well, I'll bet you can't guess who weaved the first strands of the subtle web that caught me. Would you believe my wife!

Barbara never mentioned running at all, only that the kids were taking singing lessons at college and she knew they would like me to go over and visit the class just as soon as I could. It sounded harmless enough.

Anyway, once I agreed to that, it was relatively simple to persuade me to run in their jogging class, which filled the 60-minute period prior to their singing lessons. There was a little tongue-in-cheek pressure - something about a 90 -year-old woman in the class who had only been able to walk the course when she started and was now a candidate for the TV show ''That's Incredible.''

I wouldn't discover until later that the woman was closer to 60.

I must say the jogging coach was a pleasant man, who immediately put me at ease by telling me that I could run or walk at any speed I wanted; select whatever distance sounded comfortable; and that no record of my endeavor would be kept.

When I heard a rumor that the lady in the lavender shorts with old lace on the sides (who I hadn't seen yet) had selected four miles as her target that day , I agreed to try two, provided the kids ran along with me.

Immediately I tried to remember what the coach had told me - to take it slow; that most newcomers to jogging always try to do too much too soon. I also recalled him stressing that speed wasn't important, but that finishing was. I assume he meant in an upright position.

What happened to my new jogging shoes with the mattress soles when we started to run I never did figure out, but somehow they were about as forgiving as steel.

The idea is to run together with people you know, the kids told me, so that you can all talk and enjoy yourselves. That way you have total control over your speed and even after crossing the finish line you almost always feel like you could have done more.

Actually the first 12 feet weren't bad. But after that it was all uphill. We ran on pavement on a heavily traveled street, where joggers were not necessarily the first consideration of several drivers apparently coming from or heading for the Indianapolis Speedway.

Two blocks ahead, the first time I looked up, was an intersection with four sets of traffic lights. I figured out very quickly that if the light facing us was red when we got there, then we could rest while the cross traffic used the right of way. My timing dovetailed perfectly with what the Ford Motor Company experienced when it introduced the Edsel.

On the way back we passed two sets of barking dogs behind brick walls that weren't nearly high enough to suit me. It was during that stretch that I made my best time and maybe even impressed the kids a little.

All I could think of when I finished was something I had read a few days before in a national magazine. I think the author's words went like this: ''Every man is a fool for five minutes a day. The wisdom comes in not exceeding that limit.''

I'm afraid I stretched my quota to almost an hour!

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