I used to work out a lot. I never wanted to be super big — like, I didn't care to look like an Olympic weightlifter, or even a sprinter, for that matter. I just wanted it to not hurt that much if someone punched me in the stomach. I wanted an Olympic diver build, which, in retrospect, is a semi-weird thing to want, I guess. I don't know.

I'd run a lot and do push-ups and all that. I even installed a pull-up bar during an especially ambitious period. I was eating healthy food and avoiding any beverage that wasn't water and so on. I don't remember if it made me legitimately happier, but I do remember that showers took a lot longer. It's just a lot more fun to wash a six-pack than it is a normal stomach, I mean. I'm probably the world's best at cleaning a six-pack.

But that all stopped three summers ago. I was playing basketball and dove after a loose ball. Some guy fell onto my knee and its innards exploded. I had to wear this awful full-length leg brace for a long time. Any time I moved, it hurt. Any time I breathed, it hurt. I think I ate cheesesteak sandwiches every day for the first week I wore it. It was all very sad. (I'm also probably the world's best at feeling sorry for myself.)

Outside of occasionally playing basketball and soccer, I haven't attempted to exercise regularly since then. I've avoided getting fat, but that's only because my genes make me naturally skinny. (The only three men in my family even slightly overweight are that way because of beer; their bellies are big and everything else is skinny. They look like Mexican ticks.) I figured I'd just always be in okay shape. But not now.

Last Friday, I was at Taco Cabana getting some unnecessary foodstuffs to put in my mouth. Nothing out of the ordinary went down. But then the drive-thru guy said something that rattled my brain.

He handed me my drink (red soda), he handed me my food (fajita cabana bowl), he offered me a smile (straight teeth) and then, in the most unintentionally devastating way, said, “See you tomorrow.”

I don't know if he was being an asshole or trying to be polite or that's just what he says to every car, but whatevs. See you tomorrow? SEE YOU TOMORROW?! I played it over and over again in my head; after long enough, it sounded exactly the same as if he'd said, “Bye, you fat piece of shit” or “Fuck your mother.” The guy at the Taco Cabana said fuck my mother to me and I didn't do anything at all. GODDAMNIT GODDAMNIT GODDAMNIT.

So now I'm running* again. Every day for all of eternity, guaranteed.

*I actually tried that Insanity workout program but it was too devastating. And there is a tiny Asian woman in there who completes each exercise without any visible signs of fatigue. She's like a tiny cyborg. I couldn't handle watching her covertly laugh at me every day. I quit that shit with a quickness.

The route I run is exactly two miles long, the turnaround point being a train track next to a third-tier recording studio inhabited by characters who like to spend a lot of time standing in the parking lot smoking cigarettes. It takes approximately 18:45 to go from start to end.

I have a cell phone that holds music because I am a human so I've made a playlist to make sure that I run it as hard and fast as my wobbly legs will carry me. The songs:

Rick Ross, “Hold Me Back”

Time: 4:30

I'm aware of the irony of listening to music by a fat guy to get keyed up to run harder, and I'm aware that this song is a blatant rip-off of a song by guys that Ross oversees*, but there is no denying its effectiveness. Heard at a loud clip, it has the same effect that dangling a piece of meat in front of a bear has, or dangling a white woman in front of Tiger Woods. When it comes on, specifically when G5Kid's production mutates from its symphonic opening into its fuckyouup-ied center, your legs become titanium. If there were cheetahs that roamed my neighborhood, I'm certain I could chase one down if this were playing loud enough. There aren't cheetahs though. There are homeless dogs. And anyone can chase down a homeless dog. They almost always have at least one broken leg. Poor things.

Bushwick Bill, “Chuckie”

Time: 3:51 (Total time: 8:21)

Bushwick Bill was the Jamaican dwarf in the most imposing (and most famous) Geto Boys lineup. He was a goddamn madman, his legacy as such cemented in 1991 when he tried to force his then-girlfriend to shoot him in the face (the gun went off during the tussle; a stray bullet destroyed his right eye). This song was one of the early horrorcore tracks. It was written by Bill's running mate, Ganksta N.I.P., and talks about murdering children and dead animal carcasses and things of that nature. The adrenaline here is fear induced. I'm not certain a person ever runs faster than when they're afraid of something that's chasing them. If you put a tiger on the track during the 100M hurdles, Lolo Jones would've run about 1,000 miles per hour, for sure.

Simple Success, “Move! Move!”

Time: 3:25 (Total time: 11:56)

I mean, just listen to it. I don't know how it actually looks*, but it my head I'm sprinting like goddamn Usain Bolt the whole time this song is on.

*It's highly likely I do not, in fact, look like Usain Bolt. I remember thinking in one point that I looked like Kobe Bryant when I played basketball. Then I saw video footage of me playing in tournament. It was devastating. I looked more like Danny DeVito.

There's more!

Talib Kweli, “Get by”

Time: 3:50 (Total time: 15:44)

Man, I miss when Talib Kweli was Talib Kweli. This is a great running song; super positive, super motivating, no mentions of blowing a little girl's back off with 900 missiles.

Onyx, “Slam”

Time: 3:38 (Total time: 19:22)

It's probably some sort of rule that every rap playlist includes a song from 1993/4; that's this one. This song was so brilliantly concocted and executed that even when shitty punk band Biohazard got their grimy little paws on it and tried to turn it into a metal-rap amalgam it still only halfway sucked. Do you even understand how amazing that is? Give them a medal.

Also, I don't know that any guy has ever done more for small dudes than Fredro Starr. I mean, he managed to be intimidating in a movie about Julia Stiles learning to dance, which just might be the most impressive feat of the 2000s. Give him a medal too. #BringBackFredro

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