— Walter Bagehot
British journalist and essayist
Back in the late 1980s, after having already adopted jogging a few years earlier as a regimen for weight control and general health, I told my wife I had a plan.
“Honey bunch,” I said —
— Actually, I never used “honey bunch.” I am just emulating TV character Luke McCoy (played by Richard Crenna) from “The Real McCoys” (1957-1963) who coined the term of affection for his wife, Kate (played by Kathleen Nolan). I always thought the nickname was really cool ... and “cool” is not a term I ever use either. Not then. Not now.
Anyway, back to my query from 25 years ago.
“What’s your plan?” she asked, casually spinning with forefinger the old tin globe of Earth that dated back to her high school years. It even had a dent in the Atlantic Ocean, about midway of the African and South American coasts. Likely, the planetary ball had fallen victim to some past run-in with ... life. Maybe even a comet. Who’s to say?
“Planet Earth,” I answered.
She looked up from her desk. Accustomed to the nonsense that flowed frequently from my mouth — even in our younger years — she offered only, “Planet Earth? That’s a pretty big plan. Care to elaborate?”
“Certainly,” I replied. “How big’s the Earth?”
“Are we talking weight, height or width?” she asked without missing a beat.
“Miles,” I answered.
“Miles,” I repeated. “How big around’s the Earth?”
“You mean its circumference?” she asked.
“That too,” I nodded.
“Well, let’s find out.”
She rose, stepped over to a nearby bookshelf, scanned the spines of the matched black volumes and pulled “E” from our prized set of Collier’s Encyclopedia. Our conversation pre-dated the Internet, cellphones and iPads. So we researched facts the old-fashioned way. We used books.
Under “Earth,” she found the answer to my question.
“It’s about 25,000 miles ... around the equator,” Professor Gadget declared.
“What is it exactly?” I sought. I was a stickler for detail.
“Looks like ... 24,901 miles,” she said. “What does this have to do with your plan?”
With a smug chin in the air ... I’m not sure, my arms might even have been crossed ... I replied, “I’m going to run around it.”
“You’re going to run around ... Earth? The Earth? Our Earth? You mean, like ... this weekend or something?”
“It’ll take quite a bit longer,” I assured. “But truth is, I’ve already gotten started.”
“Oh? How was the trip?”
Recognizing the facetiousness in her tone (husbands aren’t completely oblivious to spousal satire), I explained.
“Remember, I’ve already been running for a couple of years now,” I said. “And I’ve been keeping that running log that ‘Runner’s World’ magazine recommended. So I know exactly how far I’ve traveled ... which means I now know how far I’ve got to go.”
“You mean, around the world?”
“Exactly,” I confirmed.
“Miles,” I answered. “More miles than this conversation will permit. More years than we have calendars.”
“Whoa,” she whispered. “That’ll keep you busy. Will you still have time to mow the yard?”
More facetiousness. I picked up on it immediately.
“Oh ye of little faith,” I sighed without really knowing if the expression fit the occasion. “When I get to that imaginary finish line, you’ll have some serious crow to munch. But yes, I’ll make time for the yard. Not to worry.”
“And what will you do when you get there ... I mean, all the way around the world?”
Wearing a puzzled frown, I admitted, “I haven’t thought it through. I’m pretty sure I’ll turn around and come back.”
“Come back? You mean, all the way back around the world?”
“Yes,” I replied, my chin still piercing the sky.
“You’ll need a new pair of running shoes,” she cautioned. “We’ll go to the mall tonight.”
Like I said, that conversation came about a quarter of a century ago. In the years since, I have continued running ... well, jogging. I can’t really say I run. It’s what I call a run. My jog is some kind of hybrid in motion between fast walk and slow trot. In tortoise lingo, it might best be described as ... well, like a turtle.
But I did finally make it around the globe’s equator ... in a symbolic sense. In mileage, according to my running log, I hit 24,901 miles on Jan. 2, 2002. For the curious, that’s 40,075 kilometers. But I don’t run kilometers. I run miles. It’s shorter.
And then I began my trek back. Figuring missed days, shorter routes on some dates and longer ones on others, my return voyage has required many years. But with time, some dedication and a little bit of luck, I am almost there. According to the running log, which dates back to the mid-1980s, I could be hitting the 49,802-mile mark — as of this writing — almost any day.
The other night I apprised my beloved of the approaching milestone.
“Wow! 50,000 miles!” she exclaimed. “All the way around the world ... twice! I’m impressed.”
“As you should be,” I noted, my much older, white-stubbed chin boldly assuming the same angle it did in that first conversation 25 years earlier.
“You should be proud,” she added. “We’ll celebrate. I’ll bake a cake. But there is one question that has troubled me all these years.”
“Ask away,” I allowed, my confidence growing by the mile and the minute.
“If you ran all the way ... on foot ... how exactly did you get across all those oceans? You know as well as I that history has recorded only one man capable of walking across water.”
Yet another point I had not considered.
“... Those new shoes,” I answered.
I’m not sure she believed it.