Wipe dribble from chin.
Continue to run.
“Runners high my ass!” This is the thought that colors my every footfall. I had been promised a sort of enlightenment, a way to transcend the pain of moving forward at a pace that every inch of my body protests against, but it never comes. I run, and it continues to feel like running. My heart pounds within my chest, my ears begin to sting from exposure to high winds, I drip with sweat and all the while the ghostly voice of my cousin Justin whispers confidently that every corner turned will deliver my salvation from this hellish exercise. In fact, he boasts, that I will even begin to enjoy it. Bullshit.
My legs pound against the pavement, clad in shoes that an enthusiastic salesman assured me will make me feel like a “messenger to the gods”, or some other sort of cockamamie pitch that made me feel comfortable paying $100 on a vibrant gold pair of shoes. I’m stricken by the ritual of it all. There are entire stores dedicated to the sale of running paraphernalia, clubs that meet to run daily/weekly, global brands that encourage the activity, and marathons in which we, the people, PAY TO RUN! I will not argue the cardiovascular benefit of the activity, or its ability to drastically increase the health of any individual that chooses to run, but I will be damned if there is any such thing as a “runners high”.
My breathings become ragged as I crest the hill that marks the halfway point of my intended run and it is difficult to tell if I continue to spite my cousin or because the tempo of the music I’ve chosen to listen to would ill fit a walk. I soldier on all the same. On the downslope of the hill I choose to actually listen to the music since I first set out. The rhythm drives my stride, the melody colors the sky, and for a brief few moments I succumb to the illusion that I am listening to music while completing a task rather than the other way around. The illusion granted me peace, the kind one feels while dancing and cleaning the house, or boogying at work. A clever trick of circumstance, I think. How often is it that we punctuate bothersome tasks with lyrical levity in order to shift our perspective, and, perhaps more importantly, why does it work? Whatever the answer may be, I remain under the spell of benevolence for some time before I am snapped back to the reality of aching limbs and sweat soggy clothing. At a red light, with all of the power that a self-imposed torturous romp through city side streets can lend to one’s voice I exclaim, “This sucks!”
The last quarter mile takes a few minutes or a few hours and feels like the very last thing on this planet that I would like to do. I finally stop. My heart is thunder in my ears, my knees shake, I feel the sun, I feel accomplished, I feel pride, and as my heart slows, I feel alive! Momentarily drunk on endorphins I smile in the sunlight and forget how horrible my life had been immediately leading to this moment. So this is the “high” Justin had been so confident I would feel. By whatever trick of powers that be I am able look back on the agony of perpetual movement and view it as a delivery to a state of euphoria. So it is that every time I decide to run I set out to hate, and end up loving that my cousin once said, “Doug, you should run. You would love it!!” I hate and love you, cuz.