outdoor running

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Running down the busy street, its a bustling Friday afternoon that doggy and I have set out into.  The hum of traffic is muffled by my earbuds, our cadence cools down, and we are both glad to be out of the house despite the quickly gathering dark.

Closing on the intersection, it’s as if the world cracks on its axis by the sound that shatters out from a car nearby.  In that instant, everything is on its side. Was that a gunshot? My chest so tight I can barely manage breath, I vaguely register that the lower portion of my legs are burning and doggy is loosing his highest-register yowl.  Shaking at the end of his leash it’s not a bark, just a stifled, heart-breaking whimper. My feet have stopped moving, slowly figuring out there’ve been no bullets, but probably a blown tire.

I reach down to comfort and inspect Bo, now understanding that my burning shins are the result of projectile road debris from the tire explosion. I spot the car, struggling to move down the road.  As more of my brain pieces this together, I’m immediately terrified for my dog, who is eye-level where my legs are scratched and bleeding. Still in total disbelief that a tire blowing can produce this level of heart-stopping noise, let alone send gravel straight into my skin, I watch the car lurch through the intersection, rubber flap-flap-flapping in tow.

Headlights streak past, bursts of light to brush off the gravel and dirt by. There’s a persistent wondering over what in the holy hell has just happened, standing blankly on the sidewalk, and feeling rather shell shocked over a strangely eventful split second.  Thankfully, Bo seems unharmed, but I can tell the skittishness will linger as he groans and leans into my legs, rubbing his head against my thigh over and over.  Me too, buddy. Me too. 

I pet him and pet him, shushing sounds wheezing out of my mouth. It’s Okay. It’s Okay.  

It is. In this brief moment we are reminded, unapologetically, of the important things, and though shaken we are, in fact, okay.

Sometimes you don’t get the run you planned on, you get the run you need.

It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

– JRR Tolkien

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Words of Wisdom From the Waterfront Trail

I like to think I’ve gotten pretty slick at fixing issues with my contacts while running over the years. But, just as this presumptive thought was crossing my brain, I started having a helluva time with it. I stabbed my eye – imagine that- trying to relieve the burning and stinging without success. Just the one eye. Righty and I were doing just fine, but this left one, this left one had to go.

I finally rubbed it so much it tore, and I lost the damn thing somewhere on the trail trying to assess the damage. While this is by no means my first encounter with a variety of outdoor running hazards, this was the first ever time I’ve been reduced to monocular vision.

Blind to a point that my eyes are pretty much ornamental, I figured tossing the other one to even out would not end especially well for me, or the integrity of my skeleton.

I had my cell phone with me but didn’t consider this an option, because in my head at the time that was defeat, and I can be stubborn like that. Instead, I finished the last few miles periodically squinting, closing the left eye, or just looking real hard out the good one when my eyelids got tired. A little worse for the wear of vertigo, and headachy from the off-kilter sensation of it all, I arrived back home with very tired eyes and, of course, a profound new sympathy for pirates.

This was the first time I half-saw this graffiti.

graffiti on a run, "the truth is inside you"

I’ve run past it frequently since, in a less squinty condition, and it never fails to make me think about what prompted someone to leave this message.

Besides the annoying truth that I would have to finish my run half blind, it reminded me that most of the time I spend running is time spent trying to hear my own voice.

Maybe the truth is that this is time well spent. Maybe its some cosmic, coincidental confirmation that listening is always worth it. So I keep showing up to listen- sometimes I even like what I hear.

Going off to put my ear, and my feet, to the ground.

Bonus points if you can tell me where this graffiti is…. 🙂

wrunning

wrunningwrun, wrunning, wran, v.   to go swiftly outdoors in rainy climes; as in, any running during the months of October through July in the Pacific Northwest.

Sorting through my winter running gear,  my running side kick, our dog, only moves his eyes from their place resting on the floor, as I fold and re-fold fleece and long sleeves, as if to say it’s already been too long since we’ve been running.  He gets up, saunters to the window and, nose to nose with the glass, sighs discontentedly at the rain and probably, definitely, our latency indoors.

There are leaves to slosh through! There are puddles to dodge, and ebony stained afternoons that need a touch of fluorescence, by way of my windbreaker. There are trails to break through in a tunnel of misty wattage beneath the shrouded stars! He reminds me through his disgruntled ‘harumph‘ as he lays down again.

After 10 years calling this place my home, I still find it hard to accept that always, behind that infinite grey above, behind that, there is somehow blue sky.  I try to think of this as we prep for our cold, soggy run and I search the skies for any hint of that elusive color.  I don layer upon layer, ear warmers, gloves and on and on, as the dog paces, willing me I’m sure to hurry up already.  He knows.  At the first sight of athletic wear, his tail begins flailing uncontrollably. He stalks me as I put in my contacts and panting, pursues me to the furthest reaches of the closet in search of the hats hidden at the back.  Determined, expectant, he will not leave my side until his leash is on and we head out the door.

running with dogss

Our breath hangs in ethereal clouds and melts into the fog swirling up from the damp sidewalk.  My lungs, reminded of the cold, make breathing ragged at first, in slight protest to this temperature. Stiff-limbed and sniffly seem to be the order of our runs, but in them still there is promise that is almost tangible.  Promise of victorious treks through the patterns of the rain, watching sheets of it pour of the brim of my hat.     Promise of snowy slopes in the mountains, ready again for heart-stopping descents and adrenaline filled turns. Promise of soaked shoes but soaring spirits, despite the dark.  Promise of a hot shower and tea with honey.  Promise to remain unbroken through the nuance of the elements.

Not surprisingly, I’m once again I’m considering a gym membership.   I’m optimistic now that I can stick it out, but there may come long dark February weeks when my will will be tested. Where just once, I’ll wish I could jog without soggy shoes, or the constant vigilance of comically deep puddles, upheaved sidewalks (especially treacherous for yours truly, who manages to trip while standing still), and all the other obstacles that appear out of the dark.   Will I use it? Will it make me weak? What if I just can bear the thought of a treadmill?

What I do know is that I won’t ever abandon my al fresco winter runs entirely for anything.  Not even this.

That promise, despite some elements of the miserable, its uniquely ours. And there is something precious in it, shared with those out there on the roads, defiant in the face of nature. It’s a promise and a misery that helps us be mindful of the little, beautiful things,  and all the tiny delicacies of life in the elements, if only for a moment.

Those doggy rain jackets aren’t looking like too bad an idea at this point, either.