I love running. I’m not necessarily all that great at it, but I enjoy it. I think that’s what makes it so appealing. You don’t have to be great at it. No one is grading you or timing you. It’s just you and the concrete. I’ve been a runner on and off for years. Some years I run more regularly than others. It all depends on life, its demands and schedules and the changing circumstances of my nomadic lifestyle.
But recently I started running again after a two year hiatus. I was certainly slower than I remembered, and my entire cardiovascular system screamed and wheezed and complained after the first brisk few steps. I got upset at it and told it to shut up and quit your whining. This is what we do. It just complained silently and told me it was getting a headache and that that it was going to punish me by passing out on the trail, and then it asked, “Are we there yet?” after ever tree. So finally, I turned around and went back home and told everyone I ran a lot longer than I did.
The next day was better. A lot better. It was brutal and glorious and the glaring heat tore into my skin and the humidity bathed me in minutes. And then the high kicked in and I was home. Beautiful home. I have missed you, I thought as my shoes echoed against the trail and my breath came in labored, deliberate pants. I heard my fitness instructors in my head,”Don’t forget to breathe.” So timed it. Long and deliberate like a charging bull tearing through the city streets.And my temples began to tingle, and my arms ran hot and cold and trembled just a bit. My scalped warmed and then my hair moistened and my legs charged on, plastic under the command of my will. Keep going, keep going.
As the pounding blood invigorated my brain, suddenly the colors become brighter and my mind is clearer. I feel I can conquer the world, and I am struck with new bursts of creativity. My life and all its complexities fall into perspective, and I feel that life is good, and beautiful and worth every glorious moment. And I want to laugh, and sing.
Lines of sweat pour down my back, tiny tickling spiders and I can now feel sweat pouring out of every crack of my body. And I press on. Keep going. Keep going. My glutes tingle now, and I press further. I am a machine. I don’t have to stop, ever. And then, at some point, the numbness in my legs and the pounding in my ears start to concern me. “Listen to your body,” my fitness instructors haunt me again.
I know I am taxing myself at this point. I could keep going, but now I am in dangerous territory. I push myself a little further, and when the tingle in my flushed cheeks turns to a disconcerting ache, I know it’s time to stop. With one swift step, the machine halts to a walk. My whole body thanks me. As my system stabilizes, I know it was the right time. And so the bull ambles home looking like it had bathed in a swimming pool.
I open the front door, and I am greeted by the frigid blast of air conditioning. I collapse on the couch and breathe deep breaths. It was all worth it. And while I can’t move from the couch at the moment, I know that I have what it takes to conquer the world.