I jog around five days a week.

I have two routes.

One route is my neighborhood and it consists of a giant square through a few neighborhoods that are infested with chihuahuas, faded houses, and small apartments.

The other is Sunset Park. A large park loaded with baseball fields, volleyball and basketball courts, etc, and a jogging/walking trail that weaves around a lake. One lap, one mile. Two laps, two miles. You get the idea.

The park is right down the street from Wayne Newton’s house. He calls his house—or rather, his estate—Casa de Shenandoah.

From what I hear it’s packed with horses and a whole slew of other creatures. It’s like a zoo. On the outside of his compound, on the corner of Sunset and Pecos, he has this giant sculpture/mural-type thing announcing where he lives.

It consists of a giant pair of bull horns and some black-eyed horses jumping out of a concrete wall.

It’s ugly.

Danke Schoen.

Before I started running Sunset Park I was lapping my neighborhood. It’s not a pretty run. No beautiful trees or running rivers to look at. Just a bunch of old houses, singed grass, and cracked sidewalks.

But it’s an entertaining run because of the chihuahuas that harass me. There are two packs in particular that do a stellar job in giving me batches of crap for passing their yard.

The first pack, Team One, is a three-man outfit. Cute and mean as fuck. They live right around the corner from my house and smell me putting on my running shoes. They know my every move before I move.

They come at me like bullets from their carport and run along the fence showing their teeth and barking like hyenas. It’s hilarious. Sometimes I’ll hear someone scream at them from inside the house. I scoot by them and hear their last barks popping off like firecrackers.

Team Two is made up of five pure killers that live on the last stretch of the run. They prowl an ugly backyard full of rusted appliances, ants, garbage cans, and hard Vegas dirt.

These little bastards don’t come charging after me but wait at the fence and when I hit their sights they raise all hell. It may sound odd, but I think they’re offended by me. They don’t care for me on a personal level.

I stand for something that pisses them off.

They think I’m an asshole, a punk.

One of them just looks at my shoes and gnashes his teeth. Another has some spring in his legs and snaps through the air like a shark.

One day their owner (some fat guy with eyes the size of large chicken eggs) was with them. The dogs saw me and started a riot. They kicked up dirt and bitched.

“I think they like you,” he said, smiling.

Sunset Park is a pretty run. Beautiful pine trees and thick green grass line the jogging trail. A lake dotted with geese and ducks. Big Nevada sky sweeping to Utah, Barstow. Sparks to New Mexico. It’s always pleasant.

There are no packs of crazy dogs there.

But there are people.

That’s where the shows at.

The running culture is an interesting one. The runner’s mindset. The sleek shoes. The lightweight shorts and fast sunglasses. The stretching, the technique.

Running is a lifestyle.

And one hell of a good buzz.

“I got in twenty-five miles last week. Light week. Ankle was acting up,” I heard one of them say.

“The other day I was in the zone, bro. I hit that far corner, coming down, and was just chugging,” another said, jumping from foot to foot and shaking out his hands, getting ready to nail another bout of miles.

The corner he was referring to is on the backside of the trail and has a mild decline. If you hit that turn running at a good clip you’ll get whipped into a straight away like a train, the pine trees flashing by in a blur.

For all you 440 relay people who ran the 3rd leg (the turn), this is the same push you get if you hit that turn kicking. Bam. Zip. Gone.

Stick!

Sunset Park has its regulars. I have names for them. Like Frankenstein and the Trucker. Like the Bee Lady and Silver. Like the Big Mexican Dude and the Woman That Doesn’t Smile.

They’re always there, always putting in the miles.

Frankenstein is a big man with longish hair. He straps these huge weights to his angles and lurches when he runs. He’s a slow mover, but he gets it done.

The Bee Lady is a walker. She wears a large beige hat that casts a long round shadow on the trail. She dresses real cute, looks like she has some money, and wears too much make-up. She might be a celebrity. Regardless, she laps the lake like a machine and hauls ass.

The Trucker is a stocky dude with bushy eyebrows and fat hands. He sweats like a lineman and cuts the sleeves off his shirts. Yeah, one of those. He might be Russian.

The Woman That Doesn’t Smile? Well, she doesn’t smile. What can I say? She has a very aggressive running style, wears a fuzzy brown baseball cap, and gets it done in a nice pair of running shoes. We’ve ran what seems like a thousand miles together. She’s never said hello to me.

I think the Big Mexican Dude is gay. He hasn’t said so, but I get the feeling that if we sat down and talked about some of the cute girls running along side of us he’d want to change the topic and talk about some of the pecker kicking up dust.

By far the most impressive runner out there is Silver. Silver is this dude somewhere in his sixties. Maybe his seventies. Who knows. But he runs without a shirt, has tanned muscled legs, silver hair, and glides around the lake at a controlled meditative pace.

He’s a serious runner.

He’ll jack you up.

“Sloppy,” he says, looking at us floundering around the lake. “Fucking rookies. I’ll bury all of you.”

Or something like that.

Tomorrow will make it thirteen miles so far this week. If I get off my ass I’ll strap them up tomorrow and get in fifteen, maybe sixteen.

Got to keep going.

Stabilize.

Head straight.

Eyes pinned.

Arms pushing from the hips.

Foot after foot.

Mile after mile.

Got to get Silver.

Got to get Franky Baby.

Got to get myself.

 

Happy running.

RENO J. ROMERO was born in the badlands of El Sereno, California. A bona fide Las Vegan, he also lived in the dirty South for three miserable years, where he was introduced to depression, grits, humidity, and sweet tea. A graduate of UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and seedy bars, he enjoys Chinese food, Tamron Hall, the Trickster, and football. He currently writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction from the California desert, living among rattlesnakes, old bones, and biker speed. He's been published in various publications including Falling From the Sky (short story anthology), Celebrity Poets, and Central Speak. He can be reached at [email protected]

One response to “Pushing: Seeking the Runner’s Mind in the Shadow of Wayne Newton and Frankenstein”

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