Saturday, September 11, 2004

Running Verse

Six a.m.
Incessant buzzing.
Sweet sleep no more.
Yawn and stretch and try to come to life.
The inner soundtrack is already playing.

My longest training run
stretches out 20 miles ahead of me.
Part excitement. Part dread.
I'm up early to get it all done
before the late-morning heat
has a chance to melt my resolve.

New socks. New shoes.
I unlock my hamstrings
and gently ask my IT bands
to give me four hours
without any trouble.

I chug a Gatorade.
I choke down an energy bar.
Nothing like grit and chemicals
to start your day.

I fill my pockets with Power Gel.
Some ID. Just in case.
A twenty. Just in case.
SPF 45 on my nose and shoulders
and my goddamn love handles.
One last pee.
Perch my sunglasses on my head
for later.
And I'm out the door.

It's cooler than I'd anticipated.
A welcome surprise
that calms my apprehensions
and challenges me to win
the race against the thermometer.

My journey begins.

Mile 1.
There's new gravel along the path.
Sparkling white, even in the shade.
A blank canvas
upon which to tell the story
of my epic achievements today.
Assuming I make it.

I find my groove,
I settle into my zone
and start enjoying the run.
Daybreak. If you'd only believe
and let it shine, shine shine ...

I really wish I could control my inner playlist.

Mile 3.
The early hours
are for runners.
I encounter endless parades
of training groups
plodding silently along the path.
Bootcamps in an army of hope.

Mile 5.
Stop to pee.
The running association and the shoe store
have tables of free Gatorade along the path.
I gulp. I thank.
I keep going.

Mile 7.
The beach by Navy Pier
is set up for a swimming event.
Or perhaps a triathlon.
I don't stop to ask which.

Mile 9.
I've never run this far south.
Uncharted territory for me.
A straight stretch of path
between the lake and the Drive
shaded by beautiful,
abundant,
blessed
trees.

It occurs to me
these gently swaying trees
might make a good closing line
to a poem about running
that I could post on my blog.
Nah.

Half a mile later
I'm at the hill
behind the ice cream stand
by Shedd Aquarium
where my niece and nephew
and their cousins
rolled and giggled in the grass
just a few weeks earlier
while the adults sat by and talked,
reveling in the beauty of the day.
I smile and keep going.

Mile 10.
My turnaround.
It hasn't even gotten hot enough
to take my shirt off.
I'm gonna make it.

Mile 12.
Another free Gatorade station.
Another friendly hello from a volunteer.
Another reason to love Chicago.

Mile 14.
I don't know how Pheidippides—
dispatched to Athens in 490 B.C.
with news of the victory at Marathon—
made his run through the desert
without custom-fitted shoes,
Gatorade and BodyGlide.
But I'm thankful I didn't have to run
history's first marathon in his place.
Everything today is thoroughly modern!
(Finally! A show tune!)

Mile 16.
I take the optional path
through the park on the other side of the Drive.
Just another diversion
in the race to keep my mind
one step ahead
of the pains in my lower regions.

Mile 18.
The non-runners are up.
Regular people enjoing the lakefront trail.
Walking, biking, blading.
With no idea
what I'm about to accomplish.

Mile 20.
I round the bend along the gravel path
and gasp.
The lake stretches calm and peaceful to the horizon.
A rough stone wall separates us.
Serenity.

Eighth-mile home stretch.
Too sore to sprint,
too excited to let the moment go uncelebrated.
I gallop home
with all the grace
of a drunken camel.
Daybreak ...
I've musically come full-circle.

I cross my finish line.
Triumphant. Alone.
I did it.

In the breeze
the trees applaud quietly.

3 comments:

vanguard said...

*clap clap clap clap clap clap* (and not the nasty kind)

Gavin said...

Congratulations! Well done.

Sven said...

oh i hope my 20 mile goes that well this sunday morning.