A few years ago, LeBron James’ agent revealed to the world that LeBron spends roughly $1.5 million a year maintaining his body. At an age where most basketball players have either retired or look like they’re one wrong turn from snapping both ACLs, it seems that LeBron’s investments have paid off. I’m here to tell you that he’s wasting his money.
About a month ago, a few of my CITIUS MAG colleagues asserted that I couldn’t break 60-seconds for a 400m. This, at the time, was an astute observation. I am 28-years old. Over the course of the last four years, I’ve gone on probably one run a month due to a combination of injury and indifference. I am categorically out of shape.
This, however, did not prevent me from taking the bet. We were about two weeks removed from the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines. We would all be together, and they could get a watch on me as I tried my best to break 60 seconds. They stipulated that between the time the bet was levied and race day in Des Moines, I could not train a step. I said NO PROBLEM.
At the heart of this bet is one of my favorite things about running: What can you do off of little or no training? How do thousands of miles, over the course of many years, affect an athlete even after they’ve fallen deep into a sedentary lifestyle? Surely, somewhere deep inside my small, simian brain I still remember what it’s like to go out and run fast? And what better way to test this than going out to a track and palling around with a couple of friends?
Before day two of the meet kicked off was the day of reckoning. I woke up early and forced Chris Chavez, Jason Suarez and Kevin Liao to accompany me to the track. We decided on Roosevelt High School. The alma mater of Lolo Jones, it features a four-lane track that I can’t imagine serves any purpose outside of dumb prop bets like this.
There was some quibbling about how this would all work out, but within two minutes of entering the track, I was off and running. In high school, I ran a handful of 4×400 relays. My strategy was always to just go out as quickly as possible and pray to god that I could hang on to the finish. The plan that day was no different.
I hit the first 200 feeling miserable. Since I hadn’t done any sort of running that required me to think about pace in years, I was in the dark with how I was progressing towards my goal. I could have split a 25. I could have split a 42. Anything was possible.
With about 75 meters to go, I started hearing Chavez and Liao counting off the time. Because I have terrible hearing and also because my body was likely shutting off non-essential bodily functions, I misheard the numbers and thought I had already failed to break 60 seconds. As I got closer, however, I realized that barring any sort of colossal meltdown, I was going to run in the high 50s.
This was when my butt started to lock up and I feared that I was going to fall face first onto the pulverized rubber. My arms began to flail wildly. I managed to stay upright and crossed the line in 58.5. Sweet relief.
Despite having never lifted a weight in my life. Despite running between zero and three miles a week for the last four years. Despite drinking too much beer and eating too many potato chips. I god damn did it.
For the next two days, my heart rate was still elevated and I remained mostly out of breath for a full week. But all of the aforementioned questions I posed had been answered. You can do more than you think when you’re out of shape–but the biggest thing I realized is this: running, it’s not that hard. If you are a scientist or one of LeBron James’ cronies, I will allow you to study my body for science. Save yourself some cash and start living like me.
Do you know that old, worn out idiom? The one I’m thinking of goes, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Whoever said that said it a long time ago. They said that before the age of television, Doritos and the internet. It was also before self-driving cars, Netflix, and legalized marijuana. And of course it was long before people had the ability to hop on social media and as if by some strange, 21st century alchemy, turn a stupid tweet into a real-life wager where some unassuming dimwit (me) ends up having to go out to some crummy track in the middle of Iowa to see how fast they can run a 400m.
If I may, I’d like to add another certainty to life: death, taxes, and me, Ryan Sterner, being the greatest athlete to ever live.