People who bicycle are bicyclists. I exercise so that makes me an exorcist. And that's how I found myself at the base of the famed Exorcist Steps in Georgetown, D.C.
Ninety-seven steep steps that were featured in the film The Exorcist. You haven't seen steps like this in a movie since Laurel & Hardy tried to move a piano up a flight in The Music Box from 1932.
You know the song "96 Tears"? That was probably written by a guy who had just tried to run up the Exorcist Steps. The friends I was with? They were sprinting up. The Mr. Friend ran up and down 28 times! Do the math: 5,432 steps!
Actually, don't do that math. Do this math. I did 1,164 steps (hint: six times!!). Not too shabby for my first time aaaaaaand -- I did it without puking all over my friends' shoes.
To say these steps are steep would be like saying: "The Exorcist Steps are -- OH C'MON! -- these are seriously steep." I started up the first 20 steps and thought "Ha! Look at me! I'm as graceful as a salmon leaping upstream." And then on the 21st step something kicked in and I started thinking very harsh thoughts about your mother.
"Slow down," I say to myself. This isn't a race -- well, will you look at that? Mrs. Friend just BOLTED past me. Like a gazelle. Not even like those gazelles with half their butts chewed off, flopping in the wind. She just COASTED past me like she was on some invisible staircase chair elevator for old people (or for, I kid not, fat pets).
"This is your first time, they've done this often," I say to myself. Finally I reach the top of the steps and try really hard not to fist pump like Rocky. I expect to see a view of the mountain tops just below Everest but instead I am presented with a sad-eyed dog peeing on the sidewalk. He is underwhelmed with my achievement. Okay my little soggy-legged friend, I will show you, oh yes! I will do this over and over and over and THEN we'll see who has earned the right to pee on the sidewalk.
I run down and can't help imagining how funny it would look (read: how painful it would feel) to lose my footing and tumble forward. I thought going down would be the easy part but the steps are so steep you really have to fight against gravity to stay vertical. I made it down to the base and already my heart was pumping out of my chest like a Tex Avery cartoon. But hey, I run 10Ks and nothing is going to wipe me out of breath this fast. So I turn around and go back up.
I mount my second attack with gusto and make it up the first 30 steps like HA! And then -- like an engine seizing -- my legs just STOP. Actually it's more like my dog, Scooby, who on occasion during a walk just freezes for no reason leaving me to ask, "What? A squirrel? What? What?!"
One thing was clear: My legs were no Scooby and the steps were no squirrel (shoo-in winner for Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Don't even bother entering this year.)
Somehow I went up and down three more times for a total of five and then talked myself into my last and sixth attempt. Then I bowlegged around the parking lot until feeling came back, and practiced not throwing up in Mr. Friend's Lexus convertible.
Here's what I learned about running up the Exorcist Steps: If I could go back, next week I would do 10. The week after that, 13. Maybe 15. Soon I would hit 20. I did six the first time but I know I could work up to 20 soon enough. I would have never thought I could run one even a few years ago.
I'm trying to turn my health around. I'm reminded that I need to exercise more. Mr. Friend gave me some sage advice. He said weight loss shouldn't be the goal. Taking care of your vessel is. It was a poignant moment and I'm glad I didn't ruin it by upchucking on his shoes.