Millions of Americans run. Some do it for fitness and health, others to lose or maintain weight, or to relieve stress, or because they're training for an event such as a marathon. Many regular runners will tell you they run for all of these reasons, and more.
Not so with Colin McDonnell.
McDonnell, 27, a sales rep in Columbus, Ohio, has one motivation for running, and one motivation only.
"I only run when chased," he says.
If you haven't already guessed, McDonnell is also a world-class funnyman.
"Colin never fails to crack me up," says Laura Pettigrew, a runner who works with McDonnell. "I can still remember when I was hired and introduced to the rest of the team. My boss knew I'd recently run a half-marathon, so he mentioned this to a few people, including Colin."
"He didn't miss a beat," recalls Pettigrew. "He shook my hand and said, 'Runner, huh? I only run when chased.' The entire office just collapsed, we were laughing so hard."
"I remember thinking, Oh, I'll have to watch out for this one—he's trouble!"
Humor experts say that McDonnell's joke resonates so strongly because of the mental image it conjures—that of a man who dislikes running so much, he will engage in the activity only if he's faced with an immediate threat to his well-being.
"You can just picture it, can't you?" says Richard Whitcomb, Ph.D., director of the Center for Humor and Comedy Research in Intercourse, Pennsylvania. "A grown man, an avowed non-runner, is going along, minding his own business, when suddenly he realizes someone is pursuing him. And he thinks to himself, Yikes! Okay, NOW I'll run! It's priceless."
The "chase" gag isn't the only arrow in McDonnell's comedic quiver, however.
"Last fall I traveled to New York to run the New York City Marathon," says Pettigrew, the runner and coworker. "When I got back to work the following Tuesday, everyone gathered around to see my medal and congratulate me."
"Not Colin," she says. "Colin strolled up, grinning like the Cheshire Cat and asked, 'Did you win?'"
"Well, let's just say none of us got much work done that morning. We were too busy howling. Eventually the folks in accounting came down the hall and asked us to quiet down."
"I slapped my thigh so much that day, I actually bruised it."
What's next for McDonnell? The wisecracking wunderkind will say only that he's "working on something big."
"All I can tell you," he says, flashing his trademark grin, "is that it involves me and how I feel after just driving 26 miles."