Thursday, August 23, 2007

Runner

It rained.

He ran.

It's all it had done lately: rain. The earth was drenched. The sidewalks were flooded. Rain spouts and gutters roared like faucets. The world, weary of it, sought refuge.

He ran.

At first, he sat on his front step and watched it. Not for any reason - not waiting for a break he knew wouldn't come, not reconsidering if there weren't other, dryer things he could be doing. And, not to size up an opponent. He just...watched.

He glanced down at his watch, saw his heart rate was in the low 50's. Some kind of zen, watching the rain.

Then, he stepped into it. Like stepping through the curtains and onto the stage.

It was pleasant enough at first, as he found a comfortable pace and turned the music up. In fact, out there now, the rain didn't seem to be falling as hard as it had seemed while watching. He felt good. Fast. Free.

He turned the corner after half a mile and the world erupted, thunder crowding out the music. It came down in sudden, angry lashes then, but he didn't care. His only betrayal that it was, in fact, raining, was to pull his cap down lower to keep his glasses dry a bit longer. Around him people fled. Cars swooshed by, spraying great waves of water in their wakes, their wipers at full strength.

He ran.

A mile in now, and he turned left into downtown. The sky glared at him, black as a nightmare. Great shards of lightning sliced the clouds, burning so bright he could see them still with his eyes closed. The storm growled, and he ran into it. He wasn't thinking of the storm. He was thinking of the running.

Downhill now, to the lowest spot in town, just near the railroad tracks. Water ankle deep, and cars cruising slowly through it, the kind of wet and wild that doesn't make any sense. He didn't break stride, took no fruitless efforts to avoid it. He ran.

Now uphill the other direction, his feet three times as heavy for the soaking. Still, he concentrated on form, on function, on heart rate, on pace. Another explosion as thunder shook so loud that things trembled. It just didn't matter.

He ran.

3 miles finally, the warm-up completed, and now the run home. Racing now. But racing only himself. Not the rain.

And suddenly it intensified, so that seeing the world was like looking through foggy windows. His glasses useless now, he placed them on his head. Cars in the streets pulled over to let the worst of it pass. He pulled weights on his feet, his entire person no dryer than if he'd just been swimming. He paid attention for really the first time - this was some kind of storm.

Still. He ran.

Trying to keep pace, not wanting to slow down these three more miles. Hauling his feet underneath him, quads screaming, lungs burning, water not dripping but streaming from the brim of his cap. Faster. Go faster. Don't...break. Not yet. Just a little further. Go. Go. Go. Go.

It rained.

He ran.

Then the first thing to break through to him, and it wasn't the rain. A song came in through his ears, sudden and surprising. The soundtrack to another, far more sinister, rainy day. The song came just at the end of the interval, while he was slowing. He allowed his mind into it.

Always the rain. Then, and now. At every race in between, few as they've been. The universe's karmic engine seems intent on washing him down. Why doesn't matter anymore - he's no longer obsessed with asking those kinds of questions. Iron doesn't rust, they'd said.

Still, a casual ponderance: why today? He had cause to ask it for the first time, it not even ocurring to him to ask it earlier. Why run in this rain? There was nothing to prove, no ethereal purpose to it. No ghosts chasing him now, no Great Race in constant preparation for. He was not engaged in wartime theatre with the Elements. None of the old reasons satisfied the question.

He turned the last corner, almost home. Because, he thought, he could. Because, he thought, he would. Because he'd felt like running. That's all. He'd just wanted to go running. And he didn't want to be the kind of person who was afraid of the rain.

So, he ran.

3 comments:

Erin said...

Great post. I, meanwhile, wimped out and was sitting dry (and bored) on my trainer doing intervals.

Some of my best, most memorable workouts have been in some of the worst imaginable weather, though. This post captures the precise feeling you have when you're out against the elements, and you just don't care. Loved it.

Erin said...

I had goose bumps the entire time reading this- and I want to forward it out to my runner friends.

I watched the video again. B-i-n-t-L-i-f-f. I laughed out loud. cuz

Triteacher said...

Whoa. Yes, X. Once iron, always iron. :)