It happened when I was about half-way through one of those best-selling running books - one of those books that declares running is the answer to flabby bodies, depressed minds, sexual inadequacy, inflation, world war, you name it.
Enough. I'm joining a disorganized minority that's had all it can take from preachy runners forever extolling the joys of running. Granted this is a tiny, tenuous uprising that is threatened with oblivion at any moment by a chorus of outrage from runners, especially runners who write and rant.
But irrefutable evidence has come up lately pointing to the latest antitrend - a running blacklash. A humble smattering of the populace, from its armchairs or driver's seats, is striking back: a writer here and there, a singer, a motorist (joggers have long defamed motorists) who wants his fair share of the road.
The best evidence of a literary backlash to all the running books on the market - four best sellers are merely the frontrunners in a huge field of vebiage - comes from the fact that a major publishing house is about to bring forth something it considers unique. Sensing a trend (publishers, of course, are never wrong), Macmillan says it's coming out in the fall with "The Non-Runner's book."
Fresh from the typewriters of two sedentary New Yorkers, Lewis Grossberger and Vic Ziegel, the non-runners' book will preach the anti-jogging gospel. "Running has become such an epidemic in this country, a lot of people didn't realize there was an alternative," says Grossberger.
"The Non-Runner's Book" will be a paperback containing, according to the authors, such chapters as "How to Avoid the Boston Marathon," "The Zen of Sitting" and Non-Running and Sex."
"It will be reassuring to people who feel guilty for not running," says Macmillan editor Elizabeth Scharlatt. But she won't say much more about the book: If there really is a market she wants all of it.
No less than the weekly Bible of the sports world, Sports Illustrated has registered outrage and disgust:
"I am tired of stories about movie stars who run, and grandmothers who run, and families who run, and Hawaiians who run, and children who run, and women who run and doctors who run - especially women and doctors who run," wrote staffer Frank Deford recently. "Run into the ocean, for all I care, run into the sunset, run off a cliff - but don't tell me about it.
"I don't ever again want to hear running compared to religion, sex or ultimate truth," he added.
Jonathan Evan Maslow, writing in Saturday Review, attributed his lost interest in running partly to a high school coach named MacNulty. Back then, he said, runners, were fairly obscure and known as harriers. "The other students in the lunchroom quite rightly jeered over their baked macaroni when we harriers nibbled at the borders of the boring lettuce sandwiches MacNulty intimidated us into eating."
Though he tried a comeback, Maslow resigned himself to the ranks "who find no percentage in getting up at 6:30 on Sunday morning, dragging ourselves down to the local reservoir, chugging around it for a few laps, and returning home haloed by the blind optimism of having beaten the last best time we established on the previous Sunday."
Folksinger Tom Paxton, in a new composition "Hand Me Down My Joggin' Shoes," literally gets swept up in the phenomenon, but makes clear it's not for him:
I was out for a stroll just walking the pup,
Checkin' the scene and seein' what was up,
I wasn't bothering nobody, just easing on down the road
Just behind me, pitty pitty pat,
I said Good Lord tell me what is that,
I turned to look and my brain took and overload.
Down the trail and around the pond
Come a thousand people with their underwear on
Pickin' em up and layin' em down like mad
Puffin' and groanin' and faces all red
Eyes rolled back in their sweaty heads.
I never saw so many people look so bad.
Come on Harry, come on Sue
We're gonna get ourselves in shape the fashionable way
Twenty-fire laps around the pond
Will make us tall and slim and blond.
Oh hand me down my joggin' shoes today
I thought I'd head back to the farm
But suddenly someone snagged my arm
And there I was in the middle of the seething pack.
I was sweating like a fool, I was out of breath
I was trying to keep from getting tramped to death
You fools can jeer and scoff
But my legs are broken, they're falling off.
In the movie "House Calls," Walter Matthau locomotes to his own drummer. Obviously out of step with jogger Glenda Jackson, he reaches top speed with a hilarious fast walk. Unfortunately, if he's whetted interest in the civil past-time of walking it's been imperceptible.
It's the runners who have become a power bloc. Recently in Los Altos Hills, Calif., a city councilman proposed ordinances that would require a license for jogging and guidelines for "acceptable" running behavior, or a ban on jogging altogether. What apparently got to this official were the "Sunday Fun Runs," during which scores of runners run up and down a narrow, hilly road, sometimes many abreast, scaring motorists.
Jogging, though, will not be banned. As if to prove it's still a jogger's world, a large number of the pro-jogging forces, presumably the joggers themselves, turned out the night the ordinances were discussed. A city official said that a council committee studying the jogging problem will probably recommend nothing more than "alternate jogging routes and safety precautions."
Nor have any medical aspects of running stimulated much anti-running sentiment.'Jogger's kidney" and "jogger's nipples" have proven better conversation pieces than deterrents.
Meanwhile, herdes of runners want to get in the author's race. James Fixx's "The Complete Book of Running" and running high priest Dr. George Sheehan's "Running & Being" are high up on the hardback list, and "The Complete Runner" and "The Runner's Handbook" are trade paperback best sellers. But some upcoming titles run the gamut: "Holistic Running: Beyond the Threshold of Fitness," "The Psychic Power of Running" and Zen Running."
There's no end in sight though there is some hope Scharlatt (an editor who claims to have bad feet and wouldn't run if she had good ones) insists, "The Non-Runner's Book" should be the book to end all running books."
Wouldn't hurt the backlash a bit. CAPTION: Illustration, Model:; Copyright (c) 1978, The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.