Special thanks to Viper for bringing this delightful phrase into being.
He stood on the edge, toes curled over the precipice looking down into the abyss. The waves, gurgles and rumbles came from his abdomen….
Yesterday I bundled up in my North Face running jacket, running pants, hat, gloves and Yaktrax covered Asics for a typical midweek lunch hour run. It’s easy for me to run during my lunch hour for that is when Yes, Dear is on and that is not much to miss.
The footing was unsteady. Each stride sunk back about two inches in the partially packed, over-plowed sidewalk snow. It was like loose beach sand. The Yaktrax did their job. I did not slip even a step over the 5 mile course. I did, however, sink backwards slightly with each stride. Garmin (p.b.t.n.) did not do its job. It did not record the extra distance I needed to make up from each slight retreat. I must have run at least 5 ¼ miles…maybe even 10. Who can really tell what with all the negative distance being racked up?
The sun was reflecting brightly off the sea of winter white as I passed the dormant golf course. It was as beautiful as something that burns your retina to the point where you can only make out hazy objects surrounded by a celestial aura could be. I don’t wear sunglasses. Why you ask? Would you ask Matthew McConaughey to put on a shirt? Would you suggest James Earl Jones use a voice box?
I trudged through the sandy snow recording my worst minute per mile pace in well over a year. Time did not matter. This was about battling the forces of nature. I’m not one given to hyperbole, as you know, but the thought occurred that the climbers on Everest might have it rough during the annual May ascent but they are walking. I was running. Scoreboard.
Sometimes when I run, especially when my retinas have been destroyed and I’m left to blindly listen and guess at the safety to cross an intersection, I imagine myself running against an imaginary foe. My imaginary friends cheer me on from the sideline. I’m amazingly fast in my imagination. My lungs are fueled by the wind created by a 1000 flapping angels. My heart pounds with the proud, rhythmic beat of a Chippewa tribal ceremony. My legs still flail in this crazy distinctive high knee kick I seem to do. Even an imagination isn’t perfect.
When the last mile approached, I kicked it in. Damn the loose snow. My shadow lies in front pointing the way to the finish. I have just finished reading Duel in the Sun so how could I not imagine Alberto Salazar breathing down my neck. I realize this ironically put me in the role of Dick Beardsley but, in my imagination, I was a more cooler, less monstrous version. I could not see Salazar’s shadow but I knew he was there.
I sped up. Heart pounding with the insistent, climatic beat of the Ojibway ritual. Angel wind expelling from my mouth in gasping huffs. Snow flinging behind me from the Yaktrax. Half mile to go….quarter mile to go…just a little further….
A feeling of nauseousness started in my stomach. The undulating waves crept up my chest and into the back of my throat…
Like Beardsley, I gave into the unseen shadow. Salazar won. Again. I pulled back and jogged the last 1/10th of a mile to the edge of my driveway. The cold air had made me dizzy and asthmatic. (Beware of breathing too much angel!) The blinding sun made me lightheaded. The shifting snow had worn the calve muscles. The last mile, in 6:50, had nearly carried the day. Nearly.
I sucked in a long, slow drag of crisp winter air and pushed back the rolling, choking sickness that had tried to fight its way out. I backed away from the threshold. I’ll see you again another day, another run.
Yaktrax! 5.0 miles at a winter handicapped 7:41 pace.
P.S. I’m so glad I restrained myself from over dramatizing a fairly regular five mile run.