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I’m With Stupid – July 22, 2011

by Todd Hartley

A few months ago, we here at I’m With Stupid brought you the unbelievable but true stories of Stefaan Engels, who ran a marathon every day for a year, and Greg Hill, who climbed and skied 2 million vertical feet in a year. (That’s quite a bit more than a vertical mile each day. That’s a lot, for those of you who were wondering.)

Now, I have no doubt that those two endeavors involved a lot of pain. I think the most I ever jogged was about eight miles. The next day I couldn’t move, and I basically haven’t jogged since. And a few weeks ago, I climbed and skied about 3,500 vertical feet. It was fun, but it damn near killed me. So I realize the sort of effort, sacrifice and outright toll it takes to do what those men did, and that’s much, much more than I ever intend to give, make or pay, by a factor of about 700.

However, painful as those two feats of endurance had to have been, they’re almost more indicative of an obsessive-compulsive disorder than an ability to endure physical agony. To put it plainly, both men are clearly mentally ill, but theirs was pain you could presumably get used to.

I mean, not to downplay anything, but once you grow accustomed to running a marathon every day, I imagine it becomes something you just get up and do for four hours each morning before you go about your day. Engels even said the running was “more like a regular job” than any sort of “torture.”

And to do what Hill did, you just have to make the decision that you’re devoting each and every day to climbing up hills, because a vertical mile on snow, with skis, takes a long time and usually involves getting started at 4 a.m. Other than sleeping, that’s pretty much all Hill was doing for a year. I’d say that qualifies as an obsession. But at least he got to ski back down after he reached the top.

Ultimately, what Engels and Hill did comes down to a man’s ability to just endure the dull ache of an exhausting routine day after day after day. Married men can probably empathize. If you want to talk about real, agonizing pain, though, just wait as I unfold the following unbelievable but true tale.

It seems a 47-year-old British woman named Dr. Julie Bradshaw recently swam around Manhattan Island. (That’s not the part of this that’s unbelievable, mind you. Women are better at this sort of thing, as you will see. Oh, and the fact that it involved the filthy waters of the East, Harlem and Hudson rivers isn’t the unbelievable part either. Lots of people swim in filthy water around New York. Dodging trash, seaweed and floating bodies isn’t that hard once you get used to it.)

Likewise, the distance isn’t necessarily the daunting thing. The MIMS, or Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, at a mere 28.5 miles, has been accomplished by dozens of people and pales in comparison to the 119-mile swim Susie Maroney, also a woman, made from Jamaica to Cuba in 1998, during Hurricane Floyd.

No, what made Bradshaw’s swim so absurd was the fact that she did the whole thing butterfly. That’s right: butterfly. You can’t even swim butterfly, can you? I can, because I’m awesome at everything, but only for about 20 feet or so. After that it’s like people are stabbing me in various parts of my torso, and I’m moments away from drowning. Bradshaw did it for nine and a half hours. I would have sworn that was impossible.

To me, this just proves once again that women, despite all their theatrics, are much tougher than men. Men are better at long-term discomfort and degradation, things like prison and jobs, than we are at extreme, shorter-term bouts of excruciating pain, things like swimming the fly for 28 miles, squeezing kids’ heads through birth canals and hangnails. I can’t speak for every guy, but color me a wimp when it comes to that stuff. That would hurt.

But somehow, women can take it. They can fight their way through the agony and come out the better for it. And for that, I applaud them. Good on ya, lasses. You’re made of tougher stuff than I. It’s a good thing, too. Let’s face it, if men were in charge of childbirth, we’d probably have gone extinct as a species centuries ago.

Todd Hartley gets exhausted walking up stairs, but he blames the altitude.

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07 2011

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