Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Sometimes I get burnt out on running, but I manage to find ways to keep myself going.

At the Niketown runs, they usually have a raffle afterwards. I’ve been going for a year now, and I have indeed won a few times. I scored the same ill-fitting shirt twice, and a tank top I never wear. I’m not complaining about the free stuff, just that my luck isn’t that great. I never get the grand prize – a Nike heart rate monitor watch.

I’ve been thinking of getting a heart rate monitor for a while. A friend I run with swears by it, saying it’s very helpful, a measurable way of seeing how hard you’re working. But the really good ones are expensive, and I opted to hold off until I saved up a bit, or if I got lucky at Niketown.

Well, I had a big opportunity the other night. In preparation for the Run Hit Wonder, they announced an '80s music trivia contest. The winner would get – you guessed it – a Nike heart rate monitor. When they asked for contestants, I shot my hand up and was one of the five people called to compete.

As I went up front with my rivals, the Nike woman who was the quizmaster explained the rules. They would recite part of some song lyrics and the first to "buzz in" (by raising a mini-running light) would get a chance to fill in the blanks. One point for a right answer, one for naming the artist, one for the song, and I think another four points if we sing it. It was all pretty loosey-goosey – they just wanted everyone to have fun.

The first question was: "Blank blank / Is not my lover / She's just a girl / Who says I am the one."

Easy. I had my light out first, and answered. "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. Sing it? Sure. I belted it out in an off-key Jacko falsetto. Seven points and the crowd went wild. Then someone shouted that I should dance. The quizmaster amended the rules: If I danced, I'd get another three points.

Well, I have no qualms about karaoking, but I get a little embarrassed at trying to move like the King of Pop. I dance like a white guy, not like a white guy who used to black… I said, no, I wasn't going to dance, sorry. I didn't need to make a fool of myself any further – I had this game in the bag.

But my cockiness cost me. I soon learned to be less worried about my ability to boogie and more about the competition. The woman on the end raised her hand and said, "I'll do it!" She attempted a moonwalk – which in her New Balance running shoes (is that allowed at a Nike run?) came across like she was wiping dog droppings off her feet. But the crowd loved it and so did the quizmaster. Three points.

Damn, I no longer had a shutout. She threw down the gauntlet. OK, game on.

She and I clearly outmatched the contestants in the middle. We got most of the next few questions – I knew all the answers, but wasn't always quick enough on the buzzer. Sometimes one of the other three would buzz in, and if even if they were late, the quizmaster let them go, just to give 'em a chance.

Now, I just wanted to have fun, too. I'm not a competitive person, but the New Balance babe wasn't gonna take my heart rate monitor. I couldn't let all those hours of my youth watching MTV be a complete waste. When she beat me to answer, "Blank it / Blank it good" and said it was "Whip It" by Devo, I pointed out that there was a perfectly good alternative answer – "Push It" by Salt N Pepa, which I proceeded to sing, instrumental part and all. More points for Mikey.

At one point, I even did a Safety Dance. I wasn't fooling around anymore.

It came down to one last question. The girl on the end was ahead by one point. If she buzzed in before me, or if the people in the middle got it, all was lost. I was nervous – if I had that heart rate monitor, it would've probably read over 200 beats per minute.

The quizmaster said, "I got it bad / Got it bad / Got it bad / I'm blank for blank."

By the second "Got it", I got it. My light moved faster than Eddie Van Halen's guitar fingers – but did my rival have hers out, too?

No. It was all up to me. I sang a hearty rendition of "Hot for Teacher", and that was enough. Hey, I was willing to do flying stage-dive split like David Lee Roth if necessary.

I won the watch, and almost as satisfying, I won over the crowd. As I went back to join my friends, I was high-fived and applauded by everyone. Man, it must be great to be a rock star.

So I'm looking forward to running again. I got a new toy that will help gauge my enjoyment of it.


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