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MY TURN

On the run from insults, ailments

July 23, 2007

To exercise on foot is often to be accorded little respect. During my runs and speed walks, I've been sworn at, nearly spat upon and some guy in a Subaru came dangerously close to intentionally hitting me. And those were just my neighbors.

I've had a sticky liquid thrown on me, been honked at more times than a moped doing 2 mph in the fast lane, and I've learned what passes for an obscene gesture on three continents.

On Wilshire Boulevard in Brentwood, a guy in a Prius threw a recyclable soda can at me.

Many of the voiced insults hurled from moving vehicles are indecipherable, probably for the best.

Why do I put up with any insults? Because in the seven years since I resumed a regular exercise regimen, my blood pressure has dropped 40 points. My good cholesterol is up significantly. I have the resting pulse of a hibernating bear.

It's all good save for the problem some motorists have with me hoofing it. Which sounds strange considering the ubiquity of runners. The discontent directed my way may be due to the socioeconomic chasm and the breakdown of modern society; more likely, it's caused by my three-sizes too small running shorts, akin to what NBA players wore circa 1982. Call me retro.

Also, because of where I've worked and lived, I've traversed some busy streets during peak traffic times. As I'm one of those runners who bolts through red lights, I bring some of the vitriol upon myself.

But there are instances I'm running down the sidewalk minding my business when a motorist will drop some droll, Noel Coward-esque line on me like, "Hey, [expletive], did you miss your bus?" Or the vastly overrated, "Run, Forrest, run!"

A fair amount of the maltreatment occurs during my twice-monthly fast-walks undertaken to give my joints a blow from running. You've probably seen race-walkers waddling on TV. When I'm fast-walking, I tend to draw a lot of unwanted attention. Imagine the crowds that would gather if Reggie the alligator strolled down La Cienega Boulevard wearing bunny slippers. Only I look funnier.

Angelenos, please. Most of you get 800 TV channels, the Dodgers are winning, the mayor had an affair. Do you need the entertainment value of mocking me?

I was even thinking of hanging up my sneakers until my annual physical (which I get every five years) last month. My previous prediabetic condition was MIA, and although I come from a clan in which coronary artery disease is prevalent, my stress test indicated I could soon become that rare male family member who makes it to 50 sans a zipper bypass surgery scar.

It looks like I'll live a long life, provided I'm never beaned by a can tossed from a Prius.

Brad Dickson is a former staff writer for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and coauthor of "Maybe Life's Just Not That Into You."

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