by Bob Schwartz
Mild mannered and reserved Clark Kent could enter a phone booth and come out as Superman. Mr. Kent's inhibitions were swiftly cast aside and amazing strength and courage were displayed. (Why Superman could let bullets bounce off his chest and then duck when they threw the empty gun at him - well, that remains a mystery.)
Many runners experience a similar metamorphosis when race day arrives. A phone booth is not required. You simply enter the port-a-jon and come out as Racing Machine. No flying cape is necessary, nor is a large S emblazoned across your chest. Just give you a race number and a few safety pins, tie a computer timing chip to your shoelace, point you toward the starting line banner and, all of a sudden, you undergo a personality mutation.
Your timid, demure, restrained nature is cast aside and you become an unabashed member of the Emancipation from Decorum Club. No longer do you feel uncomfortable about using a public restroom - the world becomes your own little fire hydrant.
Neither tree nor corner alley nor patch of bushes is safe from an overloaded bladder before or during a race. The world may be an oyster for some, but it serves as a large lavatory for a racing runner.
You go from a bland, color-coordinated conservative dresser to wearing every color in the Mercury Paint catalogue in your shorts alone.
Suddenly need to blow your nose? Just turn to the side, make sure the landing pad is clear and give a little honk - the runner's method of proboscis projection.
Pre-race petroleum jelly is fervently lathered on every single potential chafing area. You have no reservations about applying it to any body part in front of thousands of strangers. Modesty takes a back seat to necessity.
No run would be complete without a visit from some of your body's natural cacophony. It's the melody of the runner - short, sometimes rhythmic, often spontaneous body sounds. You may try to squelch a little burp at the board meeting, but now you feel triumphant if a belch reaches the decibel level of a sonic boom and you threaten low-flying aircraft with your spit. And clearing your throat? You aim for a sound like a cat with a colossal hairball.
You shed all pretenses with your loud gasps, grunts and pants.
Toward the end of the race, you shamelessy display wheezing that sounds like a lactate-overloaded and congested Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz trying to start a rusty 1964 lawn mower.
While you normally exhibit impeccable dining manners, now you aggressively grab a cup of sports drink on the fly, gulp it down as quickly as possible as it dribbles from your mouth and forcefully discard a crunched-up paper cup on the sidewalk.
Post race refreshments give you the opportunity to see how many bananas and bagels you can consume in the span of your best 800 meter time.
If you cross the finish line with a new PR, you discard any semblance of emotional restraint and repetitively thrust your arms in the air while letting out a Neanderthal scream of delight, followed by 47 resounding shouts of, "Yes! Yes!"
Then you shower and change out of your running clothes, resuming your more restrained, "everyday" personality.
Until the next race. Until they give you another number to pin to your chest. Until you once again emerge as Running Machine.