Friday, December 24, 2010
The serendipity of running
The Koru, a Maori symbol of new life, seems appropriate for the season.
There are always so many reasons not to get out of bed early for a run. A howling wind that was roaring through the valleys at 140k and was shaking the doors and rattling the blinds was my excuse today.
I've always managed to conjur up better reasons to rise and run than to stay and sleep. South Dakota instilled this in me. There we ran in a crew, because when it was -25 outside and pitch black there just weren't any reasons good enough to get up. We'd go to each other's houses at 5:30 a.m. and ring the door bell. You couldn't roll over and go back to sleep when you had four shivering muppets in your driveway who might literally die if you didn't open the door to them.
That generally worked. Kimmie's coffee was another lure.
So I rose reluctantly this morning and headed down to Shelly Bay, thinking I'd maybe put in a few miles and call it good. And, boy, was it windy. I'd perfected the horizontal running technique in South Dakota's rampaging prairies, but this Kiwi wind was a buttkicker, gusting in unexpected punches that almost took my feet out from under me several times. Worth a giggle on Melgaard Avenue. Not so funny if you get deposited over a wall, down a cliff and into the Cook Strait.
Still, it's not a struggle here. Every few hundred feet present a new view. So it blows a little. When you turn a corner and see a cruise ship coming into Wellington Harbor illuminated by the sun's rays on Christmas Eve, well, it's definitely worth getting out of bed. Even the Pohutukawa trees (at right), known here as Christmas trees since the settlers' times, were getting into the spirit.
It is always thus. This is the joy of running. You feel creaky and grumpy when you head out the door. You wonder what the hell you're doing and why. But you have your mental counter-arguments that are triggered by such thoughts. At my stage in life it's no longer about Olympic Gold, glory on the soccer fields, or Gallipoli-like courage under fire; no, it's usually about pot-bellies, blood pressure, and being able to eat an extra piece of pie a week from now. Whatever works, right?
But once you've begun and have run through the initial reluctance your body throws up in its eternal passive-aggressive ways and the pleasure drug (ed. note: initial phrasing altered due to reader complaint, so you'll have to do with this trite cliche) is flowing through you and you have blocked out the aches and are in the zone and can just look around at the simple glories of a rising sun or of a wind making waves out of the foliage above and the water below, there is nothing better.
It's a sort of happy drug, the athlete's Ecstacy, where a simple salute from a passing bus driver suddenly means all is right with the universe. When a passing inquiry about the quality of your day from a stranger allows you to believe it's just been improved. When your body feels strong and getting stronger. It all comes after the battle against lethargy is won. And all you've got to do is get out of bed. The best things in life are indeed free.