There exists, as sure as your eyes glance these words, a woman of unusual aptitude and beauty. A woman easily identified by her feisty persona and fiery hair. And although she is called by many adoring names, she is best known to my heart as Racer. A name which simply reflects the form my heart adopts whenever she is near; infinitely erupting in sweet palpations. But, I am perhaps giving away too much of the story. So I shall arrest my inadvertent attempts to spoil this ending and tell you a story of monsters in couches, ghosts in mountains, beluga whales, and miles of every kind.
Our story begins as Racer was preparing for a journey. Her preparation required she swiftly cover sunny southern roads. All of these hot and winding summer streets were purposely leading her to a northern city. All the while Racer remained unaware that a greater adventure awaited her under a flag of two light blue stripes and four red stars.
As months fell into weeks which diminished to days, Racer’s efforts intensified. Soon her preparation included speaking her fears and hopes to the night sky. Words I eagerly awaited to receive as they crashed around me amongst autumnal colors, even if they were not specifically intended for me. Her words touched my soul.
I befriended early morning hours simply to catch her words. I stole sleeping moments to dare a response. Gradually, Racer sent her star cradled words directly to me. There growing a conversation crisscrossing a nation guarded by fifty stars and thirteen stripes.
Our conversations quickly established a well trodden path between two souls, and a path leading Racer to alight into my world. And on the day before Racer would prove to herself that nothing is impossible, we met in an embrace of twisting anticipation and twirling joy.
The following day, chilly concrete and a clear sky awoke to battle Racer. Purposely crossing a line which signified her willingness to meet the challenge, Racer quickly found herself in a battle where every step counted. That day Racer was given every opportunity to quit before she finished, but she refused. For Racer found within herself a drive to continue when all excuses would allow her to stop, and when her body was pushed to its limits. Every step on every road she had ever paced built deep within a foundation of strength. Then, finally, the marathon of roads conceded and Racer emerged triumphant.
Only a few days later, sore from prevailing in a momentous battle and carrying her shield of perseverance, Racer and I rejoined. Together again, we first clasped hands under the eerie light of jellies. Acting as silly as penguins and as loving as beluga whales, Racer and I realized something special awaited if we were brave enough to fight for it. But, Racer still had southern roads to conquer, and so she went away.
Yet, not long after, Racer would sneak away to rounded mountains. There, nestled in caverns of ancient cliffs, Racer was confronted by the ghosts of her past. As wrathful spirits sought to accost, our ever-running hero was at a crossroad. Racer could jump off to one of several byways, thereby avoiding the haunts of prior years, or she could stand and vanquish her tormentors.
Racer, of course, chose to fight. On a sharp winter day, standing on a wooden bridge, Racer and I wiped away tears stolen from us by a westerly blowing winter wind. On that arc of wood spanning a river, Racer and I said “I love you.” And, amazingly, the ghosts of Racer’s past where stripped away. She was protected from them forever by her newly found armor, an armor of vulnerability.
Still, Racer and I remained separated, I under a banner of blue enshrouding elk and moose, Racer under a banner of diagonal red lines cutting through white. But such emblems only represented an obstacle of distance, and Racer and I continued to throw words to each other across the night sky. A love growing across a nation.
One day, while Racer transversed country miles, monsters asleep in couches awoke. Upon returning home, exhausted and unexpecting, the horrible monsters attacked. Like the worst kind of monsters, these monsters invoked Racer’s own fears and self doubts.
A battle for nothing short of Racer’s own happiness was at stake. And Racer will tell you, there were times when she felt she could not win. The feeling of invincibility she had previously known was waning. Racer struggled and faltered. She collapsed amidst despair. But Racer would not succumb to her inner monsters, and she rose like a phoenix. For deep within she found her strongest weapon, an absolute belief in her own strength. Racer rose and wielded her sword of confidence, slewing every monster.
Now, armed with the sword of confidence, the shield of perseverance, and an armor of vulnerability, Racer knew only one thing remained missing…a banner of her own making. Thus began the last quest Racer would ever embark upon alone. For, Racer could see that I too was seeking a unique banner. So Racer braved her way to a land of winter skies above miles and miles of rolling hills.
Only, not every quest goes as planned. One day, while seeking a prize to serve as a token of my desire to spend all future nights gently sending words across a table, under the security of a shared roof, and not across the starry night, I was entrapped. I had been ensnared by tentacles of woe and dismay. I was trapped. And only my brave Racer could save me.
Racer set out to rescue me, confidently returning to where our adventure first began, to the home of jellies and beluga whales. Arriving at the fourth stroke past the afternoon hour, to the place where our hands first clasped, Racer found me waiting to ask one question. One question that would deliver us into each other’s arms forever. An answer that would allow me to mark this day with a white stone.
The Redhead says she loves surprises. So, yesterday, as we cuddled on the couch and were watching—somewhat confusedly—American Horror Story, I decided to give her a little surprise. I turned to her lovingly and yelled “Boo!” She was very surprised.
But I wouldn’t categorize her response as indicative of someone who ‘loves’ surprises. Relationships are so confusing sometimes. Moreover, this gives me pause to reconsider her birthday surprise. See, I gave my buddy an extra house key and told him to sneak in late at night dressed as a bloody killer clown, armed with a fake knife, and yell “You’re gonna die! So enjoy your 30th birthday!!!” Perhaps this would not be the kind of surprise she is very fond of.
On running related news, I continue to run, but not fast.
What is the alternative? Lots. Sadly, there are lots of things one could do other than run. The Redhead has been swimming and riding her bike (when her Dr. allows) although she has been told to do nothing but stimulate her bone for the next few weeks.
But swimming? Biking? I can swim if it is to save my life, but I don’t swim for pleasure, or exercise, or any other reason other than to not drown. You’re a runner, so you’ve heard this idea expressed before. A friend says, “You run marathons? That’s crazy! I only run from the cops!” Basically the same idea. Only, swimming to save your life is easily distinguishable from breaking the law and then running from the cops because 99 out of 100 times you are not swimming from the cops to save your life. Plus, when a friend says that to me, my first reaction is to say, “If you only run when you are running from the cops, they will catch you every time. Seriously, even the out of shape donut loving ones will catch you. That is a terrible approach to avoiding the police. I strongly suggest you start running more often to ensure you can actually escape the cops…otherwise running from them will only provoke a billy club beat-down when they catch you. And they will.”
And now to biking. Seems everyone is all about bikes. The Redhead got a trainer, and then there’s this person, this person, this person, this person, and even this person to name a few who ride. But I’m not so sure I’m going to hop on the uncomfortable seat fad. Really, wasn’t it only a decade or three ago when you were using your new pogo-ball? Remember breaking open your first thigh master, eager to feel the inner burn? I’m not so sure that bikes will not suffer the same fad status. And of course, I’ll go get me a bike and the next thing I know unicycles will be all the rage. Doubt me. Let’s talk about how minimalist shoes and gear was all the rage until the rise of nude 5Ks.
Yep, I think I’ll stick with running for now.
A huge congratulations to everyone who heroically ran Chicago this past weekend. Seems the windy city decided to give another hot and angry day for the marathon! Your finish is something to be extremely proud of.
Or so I blurted out as the Redhead reflexively pulled covers over her head to shield her eyes from the light that fluttered in the room. She mumbled, “How far did you go?” “Five miles,” I replied.
A mutual laugh.
Getting back to running is like getting back to most things. And, the attitude you adopt is likely to determine whether you stick with your return after a few weeks. There is something inherently humbling about struggling to finish a 5M run at a pace you would consider, under normal circumstances, a very easy run.
Struggling to do something your mind—notwithstanding all the reason and experience and tempered expectations you can enumerate—is the most difficult task any runner faces when coming back from an extended break or injury. And attitude is the factor that determines your willingness to continue to struggle through these ‘underperforming due to unreasonable expectations’ runs. With time and effort come better times and longer runs.
If you chose to have a negative attitude about these early runs, you will quickly feel defeated and your exuberance and desire to run will diminish. Soon you will be finding reasons to not run. A negative attitude spreads fast, and lingers longer than two weeks of positive runs.
This is why I chose to have an attitude of bemusement and pure enjoyment about these early-return-to-running runs. When, after mile two, my internal doubt voice begins to suggest shorter routes, I try to force a laugh and accept the joy of effort and pain. While a negative attitude takes almost no emotional energy to adopt, maintaining a positive attitude is a daily effort. But, an effort well worth the results.
And this attitude was most helpful during my extremely difficult (insert sarcasm) of a 400, 800, and a 400.