Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why I Run

Friday night I was sitting in the kitchen, legs trashed from a pretty long run.

Why do I do this? It’s Friday night – shouldn’t I be at some bar with some people my age making some type of small talk while paying ten dollars for an even smaller drink?

Whatever. That is totally not me.

This is the feeling I crave, this is the feeling that makes me feel alive. Legs are heavy with work. Head is completely free. There’s no place I’d rather be on a Friday night.

Earlier in the night, I headed out for a 1 hour and 45 minute run. The longest I’ve run since Ironman, the longest I would probably run for another few weeks. I was ready. I was looking forward to it. There’s nothing hard about a long run; just put your body on autopilot and let your head wander away. One pace, one stride, one heart rate zone, one way out one way back.

The temperature miraculously rose to 38 degrees but we paid the price for it was a stiff southwesterly wind. I headed out to the path, where I often do my long runs, hoping for a soft surface to lessen the impact of over 13 miles. No sooner did I step foot on to the path than I realized I had made a painful mistake.

The path was a mess.

Not just a mess, but take 3 inches of snow, compact it by horses, foot traffic, and bikes, add a few days of melt from warm sunlight, a few piles of horse crap, a week’s worth of thaw and freeze cycles, and what you had was over 13 miles of a mushy, slippery, slushy, snowy mess.

Turning around wasn’t an option. I was going to have to tough this one out.

I’m running along and I imagine this is what it must feel like running through marhsmellow fluff, or on top of wet sponges. Each leg lift feels like a one-legged squat with dead weight. The wind creates a wall that pushes into me with every forward step. Every slight incline feels like a mountain.

I slogged through it. The time would pass. It always does.

People often ask me what I think about there over the course of that many miles. How you entertain the mind and pass the time. No music, no company, just me and my head. So I thought I’d share some of the random thoughts that floated through my head for 105 minutes.

Today my co-worker finds out if she’s having a boy or a girl; what will they name it? What if they name it Emily like that space cadet kid that lives next door? I’ve got to warn them. Anything but Emily.

I feel like I weigh 1000 lbs. Is it the vest? The Fuel Belt? Socks? Shoes? What the hell is going on. Why do I feel so sluggy. Couldn’t have anything to do with all the miles last weekend or the 20 mph headwind slapping my face. Nope. Probably the socks.

It cannot possibly get any slushier out here. What the f*ck. I didn’t even see that hole. Or that pile of horse crap. What’s with the crap. How come I can’t crap on the path but horses can drop anchor all over the place without penalty. I want to be a horse. Especially on these long runs.

Where should we go for dinner tomorrow night? I decide on Clara’s. I decide I will drink Tempranillo.

I think about a certain race course; how the course will look, who will be there, how I will look racing. I picture it all. I haven’t even been there but I’ve got it in my mind.

There’s a lot of random guys walking on the path tonight. I wonder where they are walking to and where from. What if that one, that one there is crazy it. He and his dog. What if he got a hold of me? I better run a little quicker. Put on my ugly leave me alone face. Do you think it will work?

I’m singing a song in my head that I know the lyrics to and keep hearing but never hear who sings it and it’s driving me nuts because I want to get it at i-tunes but don’t know what it is. Speaking of i-tunes, I need to back up my music.

What if I was training for Ironman again. I confirm for about the one millionth time that even if the opportunity presented itself I wouldn’t do it again this year. I think about 5K’s. Running 5K’s fast. That kills the Ironman right out of my head.

A guy runs by me wearing a hoodie and shorts. I think it’s sunny but it’s not that warm. How is he running that fast on this snow? I see if I can pick up my legs a little more. I go a little faster.

50 minutes, almost half way out. I reach the half way point, turnaround. All that’s left is to go back and do it all again. In reverse.

Yellow peppers at lunch not such a great idea.

I wonder how Leslie is doing. How school is going. What races she’s doing next year. Then I wonder how everyone in Missouri is doing. Amy in Georgia. Even Susan that lives in the next town over. I haven’t seen her in awhile.

I start doing math. I often do math on long runs to pass the time. I calculate paces for different distances. I divide. I multiply.

I think about my coach and her coach. For some reason I wonder where her coach lives, England or the US?

I think about Tim, Ragbrai friend. The time he told Marsh he “did a very bad thing” when he polished off ½ a bottle of Jack by himself before sundown. How Meredith and I had to hold his hands walking to town to keep him from running off.

I am so overdressed. This balaclava is totally unnecessary. This snow is totally unnecessary. When did this happen? When did we get all of this snow? This must be making me stronger. If not physically then mentally because I am enjoying this snow about 1 percent. And the other 99 percent is screaming – LOUD – that the roads would have been much more pleasant. Oh shut up head. Suck it up. You run through this snow now and by October you’ll be a brick wall of headstrong. Nobody runs through 3 inches of slush without getting stronger.

Screw it. Let’s think about some place warm. San Diego was beautiful. I picture the ocean. I think about my next trip out there and the friends that will join me. What would it be like to live there? What would I be like living there?

My neck hurts. What the hell happened in the pool last night. It was hard. I swam hard. It was a new level of pain. I almost peed myself. I almost saw the wizard.

I’m going to pee myself. Really. Right here on this run. Was it the power of suggestion or the cold air? I contemplate dropping tights right there and making yellow snow.

If Chris was out here running with me he would have had a fit about the slush on the path. He would have turned around. He would have been irate with me for the idea of the path. Good thing he is not here. I wonder where he is.

What if I had all of the money in the world. What would I do? I decide I would travel. I would watch the world. I would write about it.

I like to write. Once in high school a teacher told me I was a terrible writer. Know who to listen to.

Music is on my mind. If I made a soundtrack from last weekend what would it be? I think of all the great songs I heard on the radio while I headed north on the 101 watching the blue water roll on to the shore. I think of the song that spoke the loudest to me; Warning by Incubus and the lyric “don’t ever let life pass you by”.

Thoughts take an existential turn as I think about how to live life. How to make meaning of out of each day, taking the time today to do what you want, to live how you want. How most people seem to live their lives waiting for something – waiting for life to begin. What is the waiting for? Why not take a risk, take a day off of work, overspend your limit for a day. What if you wait and tomorrow never comes – what good was all of the waiting?

1 hour 45 minutes, those are my thoughts. Random, disconnected, useless. But as the run goes on, I shed the senselessness and often find myself finishing the last mile with something much bigger on my mind. Something bigger about life or my place in it. This is why I run. No music, no company. Just myself, my thoughts, my feet one in front of the other. This is why I run.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hee hee, you are too funny, Elizabeth! Spencer Smith lives in a variety of places: He has a home in FL (near Tampa, this is his 'permanent' home in the US), he has another home in Tucson...and I am not sure, but assuming he has a little spot in the UK. He considers the US his residence though...just thought I'd put that to rest for you! :) Jennifer

Susan the Mysterious said...

Hey Girl! I am still alive, but in semi-retirement at the moment (and LOVING it). I haven't worked out in any way, shape, or form, for a couple of weeks now due to a "medical" reason which I will have to share with you in person. Not that it's contagious or anything, just worht a thousand words, shall we say. hmmmmmmmmmm?!?!?