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Friday, August 19, 2011

2 Weeks Before a Spring Marathon

The rain has been softly falling for 2 hours following a long night of steady showers. I'm soaked. The earth is saturated. The roads are matte black and the world a collage of muted grays, pinks, and greens. I dodge puddles, but I'm really not sure why. My feet are snug and secure, but through two pair of socks are long soaked. I wonder how long I can run with wet feet before blisters form in the pink softened skin around my toes and heels. I wonder if my Reeboks will ever be the same.

The wind tugs at my cap and I duck to keep it affixed. No headlamp this morning - I left a little later than usual. The cap for today is bright orange and white and lightweight, and if I keep my head down just a little lower than is advisable for good running posture, it keeps the rain out of my eyes. Carelessly I gape at the ever changing colors of dawn. A gust forces me to expend precious energy in raising an arm to reset my lid.

When I finally get home I will have run 23 miles. I've never run that far before. How many calories is that? More than I brought with me. 18 miles is my record. Only 3 weeks ago my leg was immobile while the swelling on my knee abated. My legs feel great. A marathon is 26.2 miles. Why the .2? It doesn't matter if I don't finish this 23.

My hat was the first to get soaked. But oddly, I find that if I can keep the pelting rain off my head and out of my face, the rain fades into the scenery. I guess my tights and the back of my jersey were next. How is it that I can throw water up the back of my jersey? It must be leaving the back of my shoes as my legs reverse and head for the pavement again. I wonder if I'm trailing a rooster tail like on my mountain bike through the creeks? I'm not going that fast.

Inside, my toes were warm and dry for nearly a mile. The force of my sole smashing into the asphalt and concrete displaces enough water, that before it can regroup and rush to find its level around the vents of my shoe, there is nothing left but a void. But water is coming out of the sky. The falling rain does its work, and all now hangs limp and heavy.

15 miles and I haven't stopped running since those first determined strides 2 hours ago. The rain abates, but the wind intensifies as I turn away from the river and start the only notable climb of the day. This hill is long. One mile? Two? I usually ride my bike down this hill, and it's a great one to go down. Why am I going up? The only way out is up - unless I go back along the river. No going back. Finish what you started.

I'm trudging as the wind is swirling now from the right, and now again from the front, oscillating just enough to keep me off balance. I carry my hat for a few minutes. The storm has abated, but the wind still blows. I can see the bottom of the fog just a few feet above. I will be running in the fog soon, but I don't care because I'm getting hot.

As I ascend the sun makes a feeble attempt to pierce a bleary morning sky but is summarily shunned and never returns. The river drops back further and further below. I can't stop or turn - this hill is steep - but if I could I would see the skeletal arches of 2 bridges, ghostly in the mist, slowly rising above the trees. I crest onto a ridge with views of San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay, and the lush green hills of western Contra Costa County. The waters of the river bend into the bays just below the hills to the west. Today I see only the suffocating hovering fog and the dank hillsides downy with a new blanket of emerald shoots. I'm cold.

I eat a Power Bar. Chew. Breathe. Chew. Breathe. Drink. Take another bite. Chew. Breathe. It couldn't take longer if it was a whole meal.

Cars breeze past and I suppose I can read the expressions of each face. Amused Elitist. Concerned Mother. Annoyed Sloth. Disdainful Pragmatist. Encouraging Athlete. I suppose I don't care. I'm well over half way done.

I drink water from small fluorescent yellow bottles strapped to a 2" wide padded belt around my waist. Yet, I believe osmosis may actually be providing most of my hydration today.

The last long stretch back into town is narrow and winding and the world is coming awake. Traffic seems heavy - especially with no shoulder. I ponder the distance between the asphalt and the swollen creek at my elbow and then wonder if I could launch a kayak in there. Downed trees swirl the water and I envision myself thrashed by the branches as my kayak is pummeled into submission. Too risky. If one of these trucks has its way I might have to swim it though. I leap into the weeds as 2 large trucks converge directly beside me. I must not exist, I postulate.

But I'm certain I do exist, for no phantom can feel this much fatigue and pain. Only 5 more miles. Still soaked.


  1. Isn't there a SAFER place to run??? Yes, this is your concerned "party pooper" mother. I already know the answer along with the arguements to prove it, but had to say it----it's in the mother book.

    What is this "spring"? Is it not fall out there?

    And this one thought as I read this. If only we as Christians pressed on toward Christ-likeness with the same determination. What a rebuke and reminder. It is less than a heavy rain or traffic that will keep us from studying or even reading the Bible. Is this not a more worthy "race" than running a race on this earth which will be of not consequence in eternity???

  2. Writing in retrospect...
    And no, it's still Summer, or maybe, finally Summer.