Monday, January 16, 2017

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Running

I'm pretty sure Thomas Jefferson was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 150 years before the first actual triathlon. A little known fact: Most of the Declaration of Independence had nothing to do with succeeding from the British Empire and more to do with the desire to have a better network of biking and running paths.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Thomas Jefferson was the captain of the Philadelphia Triathlon and Running Club, which we refer to today as "The Forefathers". The meetings that that lead towards the creation of famous historical documents were really just adaptations of club meeting minutes.
Thomas Jefferson grew up in a tiny Virginia town called Shadwell. I don't know if any of you have ever visited Shadwell, but if you missed it you ain't missing much. There wasn't a whole lot of action happening in the Virginia outback. You could get a girlfriend, which is why they coined the "Virginia is for Lovers". There wasn't a lot of other things to do. Tommy, not being very good looking, decided that he needed to be in shape if he was going to partake in the stately pastime. "You gotta do the best with what you got." -Thomas Jefferson (probably).

Therefore, Tommy started running. He typically started his runs early in the morning, since Virginia can get unpleasantly warm and humid in the afternoon sun. Plus, Tommy was fair-skinned and sunscreen hadn't been invented yet. He knew he wasn't going to pick up the ladies with a nice red hue to his skin. They liked 'em paisley white back then. (More evidence that I may have been born into a wrong era).

Tommy also knew that he was quite stinky, post runs. In an effort to mask his musk, he took to swimming in the Rivanna River. He developed a system of swimming against the current.  The trick was to find a current strong enough so it would look like you weren't moving at all. (Later, entrepreneurs were studying Tommy's training techniques and developed the Endless Pool.) Swimming against the current had several advantages. See, even back then, swimmers weren't that popular. When you swim downstream, you wind up in a completely different town and had to perform the walk of shame to get back home, all in your swimming gear.  By swimming upstream, you could just float back to the beginning, change into your regular clothes, and no one's none the wiser. As a consequence, Tommy could get in a good run, swim and hydrate at the same time (not recommended in present time but men were stronger back then), and be clean by 10:00 when the UV risk was starting to get, well, risky.

By his late-teens, it was clear that the women of Shadwell just weren't interested. Tommy was sick and tired of striking out and grumpy with the state's motto for not living up to his expectations. A friend of his heard that Philly was where the action was. So, he got a place with some dude who was West Philadelphia born and raised. Shortly thereafter, the roommate got into a playground fight and ended up moving to California (but that's a story for a different post). This only increased Tommy's workout fury. But, since he was in the big city now, he added biking to his repertoire since he couldn't afford a car due to having to pay the rent on his own.

What the history books don't tell you is that Tommy did a lot of his best thinking while working out. (It appears that Tommy and I have that in common. One stark difference is that he was far better at remembering and recording his gibberish than I.) Most of his popular quotes were about sport.

Look at these Tommy quotes with translations immediately following:

"Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you." This was about race performance

"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." This was about the importance of speed work.

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." This is about choosing to train instead of sleeping in.

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." This was in response to why so many people set goals of qualifying for Kona yet fall short. It's a nice way of saying that you don't have the talent.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." Liberty was Tommy's term for running.

Tommy, having given on females at this point, decided to join a tri-club. Philly had a huge club which included sports stars such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Ben Franklin. Samuel Adams provided refreshments for club meetings while the boys talked sport. Hancock was club secretary and near-sighted, which caused his writing to be at a larger font than desired. The guys got along famously!

Most of the ideas for the official Declaration of Independence were developed on group runs. They came up with this concept (as seen on the right) while out for a particularly frustrating workout. The Redcoats tried to tell them that they weren't allowed to run 2 abreast while on Chestnut Street. Once in a while, the books will state that he may have been 'running from the British', which is a gross misunderstanding of the truth. They were just out for a run. Running is life. Running is liberty. Running is happiness.

Tommy made it his mission to get a better pathway system on the Delaware and the Schuykill  Rivers, which still exist to this day. The British disapproved of this because they know that it's easier to defeat an enemy who is fat and lazy than one who is in shape in the 3 disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. Luckily, Tommy and his clan had more pull with the locals.

Tommy's excellent ideas and leadership skills were what finally made him popular with the ladies. Tommy married Martha, who was the first woman allowed in the Forefathers Tri-Club. They eventually moved back to Virginia so that Tommy could finally make the state's motto proud.

There's a rumor floating around that Tommy and Martha's bloodline is alive and strong. One of their kids may have moved out of mom and dad's basement and relocated to Pennsylvania. From there, it's pretty obvious that the Andy Potts is carrying around Jefferson DNA. But I'll let you decide.

So there you have it.

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