I loathe treadmill running. So much, in fact, that I tend to run as fast as I can just to get off the damn thing. Not wise, I know, but I do it anyway.
Over the past week, however, late nights at work, my everlasting hatred of getting up early to run and a winter blast over the weekend led to far too many miles on the mill.
Today after work I headed for the gym for four miles. As I shed my work clothes and pulled on running stuff I realized I forgot a headband. Fortunately I just got most of my hair chopped off so I decided I could handle a few sweaty strands in my eyes.
Then I reached for my iPod. Dead battery. Unacceptable. I depend on it to make the miles tick by. Depend completely. After contemplating bailing and going home to eat some chips and slug some beer I decided to do a two-mile time trial and then get the hell out of there.
Hopped on, cranked the POS up to a barely tolerable speed and stared at the clock on the wall in front of me. After a mile I was surprised that I felt like I was jogging -- I was running comfortably and my breathing did not sound like the normal sweaty beast I turn into. I picked up the pace a bit more. As I neared the two-mile mark I decided to go for a 5k treadmill PR. I was well on my way when I hit the 2.5-mile mark.
Then the gym started looking bizarre. A bit foggy. Smoky, you might say. "That's weird," I thought to myself. "Runrunrunrunrunrunrunrunrunihatethetredmillhatehatehatealmostdonealmostdone."
And then, a smell. Sawdust mixed with campfire. Followed by quite a sound -- a squeal of brakes mixed with dial-up-modem.
The treadmill came to a grinding halt. Because it was on fire. Not a complete inferno, but smoke was pouring out from under the belt.
I looked around. People were looking at me. I pretended that nothing was happening. The treadmill screen alternated blinking "fatal error" and "no signal."
I hopped off and headed to the guy at the front desk. "The treadmill third from the end is ablaze," I said. But he knew that already. Ok, ablaze was overstating things, but there was some serious smoldering action happening.
Unsure of what proper gym etiquette called for in such circumstances, I thought about grabbing for the sanitizing wipes and making sure my sweat was off the machine. But that seemed dangerous. Instead I grabbed a magazine and hopped on the elliptical for a bit. While I ellipticalled I watched the guy at the front desk unplug the treadmill, squirt it with water from a squirt bottle, scribble "Out of order" on a post-it and stick it to the machine. I started to giggle. Then laugh. A lot. Like a weirdo. So I went home.
And yes, I am fully aware that the fact the damn thing caught fire had nothing to do with me running -- I am not so fast at all -- and everything to do with the fact that my crazy inexpensive gym is so cheap because the equipment is junk.