Greek mythology tells us the story of a deceitful king named Sisyphus who the gods punished by forcing him to continuously roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. Some have suggested the story symbolizes the vain struggle of man in the pursuit of knowledge. Some believe it is intended to remind us that striving for power is ultimately an empty quest. These are foolish theories. All of them – foolish. The story of Sisyphus and the boulder was obviously meant to give us a glimpse into the future. It’s is a window into the modern world where a torturous mechanism has been thrust upon us and society has been told to smile, sweat, and rejoice. So, what demon contraption did the Greeks foresee?
Of course, I’m talking about the running stroller.
If you have never seen a running stroller, here is a photo:
Oh, sure… that’s not what they look like in advertisements. When you open up a running magazine or see an image online, this is what you get:
Just look at the smiles, the joy, and the freedom! Nothing can stop these runners. They are gliding along with happy children and free spirits.
This is the new mythology. The ads tell us the stroller is practically weightless. “Go on out there,” the ads tell us. “It’s like pushing a feather!” And I have to admit, some strollers are fairly lightweight. They can be anywhere from 20 to 30 lbs and roll smoothly across the asphalt. I mean, just look at those ladies smiling. What difficulties could be caused by a simple 25 lb stroller? It’s a piece of cake. We can do this! Sweep the leg!!!
Well, I’ll give you some difficulties right now. Yes, the stroller may be 25 lbs and be shaped like the nose of an F-16 fighter jet. But, that’s the economy model for this vehicle. Let’s discuss some standard features. First, you’ll probably want to take a water bottle with you. Some are rather large.
Sure, It adds a little bit of weight, but not much. No big deal. And maybe your child needs an extra blanket or jacket. Perhaps a hat and sunglasses too. Did you remember to grab the kid’s snack or favorite toy in case he/she gets fussy? Not that children ever get fussy.
Oh… do you know what else adds a little bit of weight? THE CHILD!
My daughter is now 30 pounds. It may not sound like much, but you fail to understand that my daughter has magical powers. Really. She is an amazing sorceress who can change her weight when a certain topographical feature is upon us. Look again at those pictures of the smiling ladies pushing the strollers. Now, do you see what’s missing? Look carefully. That’s right… hills.
As soon as my running stroller hits the base of a hill, my daughter can perform this incredible transformation where she goes from 30 lbs to 280 lbs while singing “Wheels on the Bus” and pausing only to point out every airplane in the sky. I usually see the first few jets, but by the time I’m half-way up a hill, they are mostly blotted out by the spots floating around my eyes from oxygen deprivation.
Fortunately, my daughter has a tremendous amount of empathy for me. I mean, she must because every once in a while a tiny shoe or a Dora the Explorer water bottle gets tossed from the stroller like a grenade and I get to stop and pick it up. During those precious seconds, the world stops spinning and hallucinations fade as I realize the guy on the corner is washing his car with a hose and not handling a fire-breathing Boa constrictor.
Now, here is where I should admit that my disdain for the running stroller comes from a mental scar that will not heal. I remember every detail with absolute clarity. The year was 2008 (probably). It was a simple Pittsburgh 5K for a worthy charity (probably). I was on the last quarter-mile (I think) and I turned on the jets (tried not to throw up). The next thing I knew a woman blew past me like I was standing still. Now, I’m no running egotist and I have absolutely no problem with being, as some people say, “chicked”. There are plenty of women out there who can outrun me any day of the week and twice on Sundays. So seeing this woman hit Mach 3 while I was in a school zone would normally be fine. But, what got to me was THIS:
The double-wide urban assault vehicle filled with at least 50 lbs of toddler weight was too much for me to bear. The woman was pushing Beelzebub’s Chariot at such a rate, I doubt she saw my jaw drop as she passed by. However, I’m pretty sure one of her kids leaned out, looked back, winked, and gave me the finger. By the time I crossed the finish line, the trio had finished their post-race bagels and Spongebob juice boxes, and were headed to their minivan.
So, I’m biased. I don’t care for the running stroller one bit.
Well, that’s not completely true. My daughter enjoys it and she sings the cutest songs and practices counting while we run. Sometimes she stops mid-song, asks me a question, and then treats me like I’m a freaking genius when I answer her. Also, there are times that if I didn’t have her in the Sisyphus Stroller, I’d not be able to go for a run and you really don’t want to be around me if don’t get regular exercise. So, I guess it kind of makes me a better person.
Not to mention, soon she will be too big for a stroller but too small to run very far. Then, before you know it, she’ll be too cool to hang with dad and she’ll figure out my answers to her questions aren’t so profound.
Maybe that’s how this will all go down. Several years from now I’ll be five miles into a solitary run and I’ll glance down at the hard ground scrolling in front of me. I’ll come to the base of a hill and charge upward sensing no unnatural resistance. Then, without warning, something inside of me will become painfully aware of all the weight that is no longer there for me to carry.
Perhaps the running stroller isn’t that bad after all.
Have you used a running stroller? Like? Dislike?
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, and other works of fiction. His new novel, Measure Twice, also involves a distance running protagonist. He is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
RESOLVE has been named a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers organization.
RESOLVE was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.