By Michael Selman

Some things in life are truly paradoxical. For example, why in nature, would

the hardest part of the human body be in direct contact with the softest part

of the human body, fully capable of doing severe damage? Anyone who has ever

bitten their tongue knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Most of the runners that I know represent a similar oxymoron. (No, an oxymoron

is not a dumb person with zits.) To casual observers, we are a picture of

good health and good living. We run, therefore we probably eat fresh fruits

and vegetables all day long, drink nothing but sparkling water, and wouldn't

go near red meat with a ten foot pole. I don't know about you, but rabbit

food just doesn't cut it for me.

It is true that we do share some common health beliefs. Rarely do I see a

runner smoking before a race, but it's not unheard of. One of the nicest

things about post race parties is that they are smoke free, a fact appreciated

by all. But to see what food disappears first at those post race gatherings is

the window to the soul of the runner.

I was at a race recently where post race refreshments included pizza, sub

sandwiches, assorted cookies, and bananas. I saw people walk off with three

pieces of pizza, and then return for more when their stash was gone. I saw

people hoarding down handfuls of cookies without caloric guilt or remorse.

People were crowded around the sub table to the point where you couldn't nudge

through to see what was left. Thanks to the sponsors who provided the feast.

There was plenty of everything for everyone.

One table was practically ignored. The bananas. I didn't see anyone look

both ways and then grab a bunch of bananas when nobody was looking. There was

no need for a sign that said "Please limit yourself to one banana only." Most

people were limiting themselves to no bananas. Curious, I thought that these

health conscious people would bypass the obvious choice in favor of fat and

empty calories.

As I thought about this, I realized that the five pieces of pizza I had just

eaten had made me extremely thirsty. Boy, I could go for a beer right now.

Beer. The one universal drink of the runner. Is there a runner alive who is

not also a beer lover? Just give me my Samuel Adams after a training run and

it truly doesn't get any better than this.

I am an analytical thinker and try to make sense out of everything. So, of

course, I started wondering why good running seemed to go hand in hand with

bad eating and beer drinking. Well, I think I have figured out the answer in

a way that at least I can understand. It's really quite simple if you do the

math. Let's start with the facts.

3500 calories will always equal one pound. This is a simple mathematical


Each mile you run burns approximately 100 calories. Each beer you drink adds

about 150 calories.

Personally, I maintain a weight of about 150 pounds, which remains steady from

year to year. I average about 120 miles of running per month. At 100 calories

per mile, that means that each month, I burn about 12,000 calories running.

120 miles X 100 calories = 12,000.

12,000 calories = 3.42 pounds. That's how much weight I lose each month by


In order to stay even, I need to intake an equivalent number of calories from


12,000 divided by 150 (calories per beer) = 80 beers per month, or 2.66 beers

per day.

I willingly do this to maintain the balance of nature. The first 2 beers are

easy, but the last .66 is a bit harder. I haven't yet figured out how to keep

the carbonation going from one day to the next once the bottle is opened.

Simple math again tells me that I cannot stop drinking beer even if I wanted

to (which, thank goodness, I don't.) Here's why.

Suppose I stopped drinking beer today and changed nothing else about my

lifestyle. I'd still run my 120 miles a month, and I'd lose 3.42 pounds in

the process. In only one year, I would lose 41.1 pounds. My weight would

drop to under 110 pounds and I'd have to listen for high wind advisories

before going outside. In only three short years, I will have lost 123.3

pounds, bringing my weight down to 26.7 pounds. I could get a job as a wind

sock at the airport. In less than four years, I wouldn't even be here any

more. I would be totally gone.

Quit drinking beer? How can I? I am forced to drink in self defense. I take

comfort in the fact that health experts now say that a beer a day may be

better for you than total abstinence. So I figure you can never get too much

of a good thing. I'm probably guaranteed good health through the year 2510 by

now. Besides, we all have to do our part to contribute to the balance of nature (and the

bathroom scale. ) So bring on the pizza, sub sandwiches, cookies, and, most

importantly, keep drinking beer.

And save the bananas for the monkeys.