“If it wasn’t for bad luck…”

Posted: May 14, 2011 in In Transition, Run, Training
Tags: ,
  • Long Run (click to see stats)
  • 14.42k (1:20:32)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 150 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 163 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:35 /km
  • Best Pace = 4:09 /km
  • Calories = 1353
  • Temp = 22º
  • SOTD: ‘A Forest’ by The Cure


“…I’d have no luck at all.”  Horeshit!

I am not really a superstitious type of person but it was with a little trepidation and maybe against better judgment that I laced up my runners and headed out the door this evening for my long run.   You see, today is Friday the 13th and given that it’s dangerous out there already on the road by yourself at the best of times, going out on the granddaddy of all unlucky days just seems plain stupid.  But what choice do I have as it’s also supposed to rain all weekend; so better to suck it up now while it’s warm and dry and just ‘get-er-done’ – superstition be damned!

Despite my overtly rational layman’s approach to understanding nature and the universe, I can’t deny being somewhat superstitious to a certain degree.  I wear the same pair of socks for all my long runs, use the same ‘don’t tell me about’ philosophy come each race day, and carry a picture of my little niece with me in all my competitions; so I also won’t deny that there is something almost sinister and unnerving about this particular calendar day.  It should feel like any other workout day except that today it feels a bit edgier and I’m a bit more anxious as if there’s an ever present chance that a grand piano is going to fall out of the sky and land on my head.  Maybe I suffer a little from a mild case of Paraskevidekatriaphobia: the condition that afflicts some with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th.  Well, actually, I think it has less to do with the whole unlucky taboo surrounding today’s date so much as it does about the intensified stupidity of others around me on this particular occasion.

But regardless, there it is – this nagging fear in the back of my head advising me to call it all off and stay inside safe and sound from the inevitable onslaught of psychologically demented psychopaths all running around amok in the streets looking for an opportunity to bury a meat cleaver in my forehead.  If that’s an “irrational fear”, then lock me up and throw away the key!  But where did this fear of Friday the 13th come from anyway?

Though no one can say for sure when and why human beings first associated the number 13 with misfortune, the belief is assumed to be quite old and there exist any number of theories purporting to trace its origins to antiquity and beyond.  It has been proposed, for example, that fears surrounding the number 13 are as ancient as the act of counting.

Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, so he could not count higher than 12, according to this explanation. What lay beyond that – 13 – was an impenetrable mystery, hence an object of superstition.  So early man was none too bright then?  I mean, this suggestion has a lovely, didactic ring to it, but one is left wondering: did primitive man not have toes or was he just too busy chasing down dinner to notice?

It is also said: ‘If 13 people sit down to dinner together, all will die within the year.  The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary’ (Brewer, 1894).  Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names).  There are 13 witches in a coven. It never ends.

Need some motivation towards that new PB?

There are more irrational ways to explain the fact that 21 million people (that’s eight per cent of all Americans) are wrapped in the grip of old world superstition; myself included apparently.  Paraskevidekatriaphobia stems from two separate fears – the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays.  Both fears have deep roots in Western culture, most notably in Christian theology.  No real surprise there, right?

Thirteen is significant to Christians because it is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles).  Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.  Christians have traditionally been wary of Fridays because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.  Additionally, some theologians hold that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and that the Great Flood began on a Friday.  In the past, many Christians would never begin any new project or trip on a Friday, fearing they would be doomed from the start.  So what’s with all this “TGIF” bullshit then?  By the sounds of it, I’m heading out into certain death.

Some historians suggest the Christian distrust of Fridays is actually linked to the early Catholic Church’s overall suppression of pagan religions and women. In the Roman calendar, Friday was devoted to Venus, the goddess of love.  When Norsemen adapted the calendar, they named the day after Frigg, or Freya, Norse goddesses connected to love and sex.  Both of these strong female figures once posed a threat to male-dominated Christianity, the theory goes, so the Christian church vilified the day named after them.  So, really, Friday the 13th is just the Church’s way of ‘cock-blocking’ the world’s other deities.  Crazy, eh?

This characterization may also have played a major role in the fear of the number 13.  It was said that Frigg, or Freya, would often join a coven of witches, normally a group of 12, bringing the total to 13. This idea may have originated with the Christian Church itself; it’s impossible to verify the exact origins of most folklore.  A similar Christian legend holds that 13 is unholy because it signifies the gathering of 12 witches and the devil.  It’s a day then to strip down, draw chalk outlines on the floor, light some candles, smear yourself in goats blood, and dance around to Alice Cooper records while pumping the air with the sign of the beast.  Maybe I should stay home?

But ultimately, the complex folklore of Friday the 13th doesn’t have much to do with people’s fears today.  The fear has much more to do with personal experience.  People learn at a young age that Friday the 13th is supposed to be unlucky, for whatever reason, and then they look for evidence that the legend is true – as I am doing today in trying to find a reason to not run and stay home instead.  The evidence isn’t hard to come by, of course.  If you get in a car wreck on Friday the 13th, lose your wallet, spill your coffee, or twisting your ankle at the 12k mark after slipping on a banana peel, that day will probably stay with you.  But if you think about it, bad things, big and small, happen all the time.  If you’re looking for bad mojo on Friday the 13th, you’ll probably find it.  I have the same chance of being run down by some moolyak in a Dodge Caravan tonight as I do on any other given day.

So best to just forget all this superstitious mumbo jumbo and simply get down to the business at hand – kicking ass and taking names.  It’s just another “mental toughness” day in my book.  I did, however, decide to take it easy and incorporate 3 x 2 minute walking intervals…you know, just in case.


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