Big grins. “People actually die doing that, don’t they?” Arms coiled around cameras, poised to take pictures of my ultimate demise. Tourists.
Demise? Well, I am lying on the Beinecke plaza ledge, trying to comprehend what exactly I have gotten myself into.
For those who’re still confused about why I happened to be lying down, face flat, body rigid and arms to the side, I was not doing a form of mystic yoga. Yes, I’m always disappointing my exotic, Indian genetic background, but not now. This time, I was planking.
Planking is the Darth Vader to yoga’s Anakin. I could leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be very useful to those not trained in the ways of the Jedi, or anybody who wants to actually glean information from this article. So let me start again: As the name suggests, planking is the “sport” (note the scare quotes) in which people mimic the position of a plank — a flat piece of wood. So basically, they lie down, eyes staring at the floor (as they appreciate the difficulty that ants might have when journeying to the insides of their nose), stay immobile, and do, well, not much else. Sounds very exciting.
So when WEEKEND sent a message out about covering a “planking” event, the inner adventurer in me felt urged to just say yes. Or maybe it’s the fact that I had just seen “Gossip Girl,” and Chuck Bass had been propunding the usefulness of just saying yes. Oh, if only he too had been invited to plank.
One thing that I didn’t know when I signed up for planking was that it actually involves running more than two miles. The last time I’d run more than that was in one single, awful dream. And that too had taken me all night. So when the group leader said that we would run to East Rock and back, I died a little.
We set off on a journey away from Yale, my comfortable cocoon. The first part of my planking initiation leads me up Hillhouse Avenue and onto the railing of a bridge. Not sure if I could survive the inevitable fall from grace (onto the ground), I chicken out and choose to take the pictures of the participants instead. Huffing and puffing as we move up the road, I meekly follow the others as they effortlessly continue their sprint up Science Hill. As I stare in awe at the laboratory buildings I didn’t even know existed, and the view of the hill in front of me, I realize they must have really pumped in a lot of money into the science department. The others excitedly look around for good spots to plank.
In the next hour, I laid down on a slanting roof, a twisting staircase ledge, successive stairs of a stately building, and the top of the Yale School of Management. The leader planked a piece of plywood suspended on the edge of a building, and she is beaming, proud of her disciples. There are only two other participants with us. One of them, a boy who dressed nicely to go planking, is complaining about how his pristine, white shirt is ruined forever. The other is wearing a drenched T-shirt, a product of planking the top of a wet police booth. As I looked at him shivering in the cold, I wondered about the dedication he must have to this “sport.” But to do WEEKEND justice, I decided to be more involved in planking, and I suggested a spot that we could plank next — the Planned Parenthood sign.
As we continue on our never-ending path to East Rock, I check my watch. We’ve been running for half an hour (including, of course, all the stops we’ve taken on the way). Why would people torture themselves with the experience of enjoying the cool air as it hits their face, and the pretty, all- American houses that litter our path?
As East Rock looms over the distance, we plank a playground for children. An Asian mom looked at us apprehensively as we, wearing sweaty and soiled clothes, started to plank the stairs on which her children are playing.
“Should I remove them from the scene so that they don’t ruin your picture?” she asked. We decided they add to the artistic element of our photo, making it seem like we’re sending across a deep social message. We told her that we hope she’ll let them be a part of our picture. I was not surprised when she took them away.
A few minutes later, we finally make it to the base of East Rock. The muddy leaves hit my face as we run down the trail to a little lake below the rock. It’s the perfect place for planking — dirty and full of rocks that hurt your stomach. And so we plank a boulder, an ancient tree that fell down during a storm and a strange tree that grew to curve around the trail, almost as an entryway. We plank and we run until we can’t plank anymore. And we take pictures that might make the most interesting Facebook profile pictures you’ve ever seen.
Finally, we leave the wilderness behind and walk out of East Rock park. I was happy; finally going back to Silliman. But then I look up and see the long road stretching ahead of me; three more miles back to Yale. This was fun, but let’s be real: I hate planking.