Monday, July 12, 2010

Run, Baby, Run

And she's pictured all the places

Where she knows she still belongs

And she smiles a secret smile
Because she knows exactly how

To carry on

So run baby run baby run baby run

Baby run

"Run Baby Run," Sheryl Crow

may I be I is the only prayer--
not may I be great
or good
or beautiful
or wise
or strong
e e cummings

It was pouring rain on Saturday morning.

I mean, pouring.

Like the kind of rain that comes down in movies, the kind you scoff at and say "There's no way that's real. It doesn't rain like that in reality. That's totally production."

That kind of rain.

It was raining, and it was humid, and I was running an unfamiliar course. An unfamiliar hilly course.

Baltimore City does not have hills. Unless you count Fort Avenue, which I do, but only when I am physically in the process of running it. I'm told the Mt. Vernon route has some elevation but, again, this is more of a long incline. No doubt tough on the leg muscles, but not what I'd consider to be...hilly.

This Annapolis course, however, was hilly.

And wet.

So, within the first quarter mile, I made a deal with myself. I was exhausted, having completed my first week back at a 9-5. I hadn't been able to train as hard as I would have liked, I felt a little unprepared, and I didn't know what sort of skill level I was up against. This wasn't like the Baltimore Women's Classic, with 2,500 women racing through the streets of Locust Point. There were only about 200-some women running this race and, very shortly after the gun (which was a verbal ready, set, go!), we had disbursed enough so that I found myself running alone with no one to which to match my pace.

I made a deal with myself to finish the race with the understanding that this would not be my best time. I would push through, knowing that I probably couldn't beat my previous record of 26:33. It's only my second race, I reasoned. There is time for improvement.

I lengthened my strides the way I'd been told, to take some of the exertion off of my upper body in the humidity. I kept my head down to keep the rain out of my face. And I pushed forward, through wall after wall. It was a hard race for me.

Along the river, branches heavy with rain dipped low to the ground. Beautiful homes tucked back along the water, trees taller than the buildings that normally surround me. I had forgotten what it was like, greenery. You live in Baltimore long enough, you become accustomed to the random splotches of scraggly trees poking up from the sidewalk. You forget what real trees are, how they arc and branch upwards so heavy with leaves it forms a ceiling. A living, breathing ceiling.

It was like running at the beach. A new perspective. The light is different, the sky is different, and as much as you're focused on the path in front of you, you can't help notice the scenery.

I started to enjoy the race. I was still pushing; pushing through those walls. When I run, I hit mental and physical walls. They come in a series, and I feel them start to hit and I feel myself pushing through, and I feel them dissipate. It's just a wall, I tell myself, and on the other side of it is a new rush.

I ran past the home of a childhood friend. We used to play in the woods behind her house; games that involved witches and magic powers and sticks that yielded spells and rocks that were secrets. I hadn't seen this home in....fifteen years? At least. It looked the same. Smaller, maybe. I hit another wall. It rained harder. I kept running.

In my mind, I could see the finish line. Who is this person? I suddenly asked myself. Who am I? I have pushed through so many walls, mainly self-inflicted, in the last six or so months. I have pushed, I have worked, and I know that I can do this. I never knew that before. I know that the finish line is coming, and that I'll cross it, and that no matter what the time is, I will be proud of myself for finishing. I will not stop and walk, I will not slow down. I'll just keep going. Because the walls will fall apart and the finish line will materialize.

And there it was. I sprinted the last 50 or so yards and crossed the finish line.

At 24:55.

More than a minute and a half off of my personal best record.

Some mornings I wake up, and I do not know who this person is. This person who gets up, excited for the day. I get up, and I smile at strangers, and I make conversation with cashiers. I comment on the weather to passersby. I have no idea where I found this peace, this solidity. I know, somehow, that it has something to do with the running. With the goals and the accomplishments and the training and the diligence. Somehow, this is all connected.

I am getting to know this new person. I understand that I am not always Zen. I know there are walls to push through, still and always, and patterns of thought that must be broken.

But I find, existing in between all of these walls and maybe even in the walls themselves, this happiness that I did not know existed. That I felt had somehow alluded me for all these years. It was as though I finally plugged into some stream of consciousness or some energy flow that finally lit up my personal light bulb of a soul.

Run, baby, run.


Lee said...

Oh my... is Glitterati becoming a runner? I never thought I'd see the day.

Megan said...

yay! i love that you are running now!