We all have those moments when we don't recognize ourselves. We say something and hear something our parents would say. We look at a photo and the old fat person in the back is us.
(Yes, I know the grammar there is wrong.)
Middle age is full of those moments. Ever want to tell your boss off, then calculate that you don't have enough savings to cover the time it would take to find another job that pays as well? How about realizing that you bought a SUV because it wasn't a minivan, just like your parents bought a minivan because it wasn't a station wagon and now you're just the third generation to spend a fortune on a box to haul your kids places you don't want to go? Have you discovered that that thing you've done as a couple for years is something that neither of you actually likes, it's just easier than trying to find common ground again?
I've come to see that what I like most about running is that, every once in a while, I am completely totally me for a time. Those moments have been rare of late.
Yesterday, after a week of not being able to do much due to illness and bad weather, I decided to go run indoors in the Metrodome (it's Mall of America Field now, I guess). Each year, it's full of fast men in their late 50's who are still hanging on to 3:00 marathon dreams and fast women in their early 30's who have "qualified" (and how good it is to hear "qualify" mean Olympic Trials, not Boston!), a few young men who are extremely fast and a couple hundred others trying to stay warm and healthy.
I started running with Mark LeDuc, who I last saw two weeks earlier at Rocky's Run, when I was too ill to run. He asked how old my shoes were, a recurring joke among my cronies (they turn 3 next month; I have two pair much older). We started off at about 8-8:15 miles, considerably faster than I've been doing of late and started gradually speeding up, as always happens when I run with others. We caught up to Dave Tappe, John Naslund and a bunch of others and it looked like Mark was going to hang with them and say hello, so I pushed on ahead and started reeling in other runners - multiple loop courses mean continuously passing people, perhaps why I like running races like Trail Mix, rather than point-to-point courses where I end up running solo for hours.
I could hear one of the pack I passed trying to catch me, so I sped up a little. It's a game we play every year: usually after 10 miles, I pass them and someone tries to catch me. In 20 years, I think I've been caught once. I just kept speeding up whenever I could hear footsteps behind me. This is my element. I'd catch a glimpse of myself in the reflections on the glass doors and I wasn't the stooped shuffling figure I've been the past year or so, but a version of me that I remember - long strides, easy loping, fast as I need to be. I kept speeding up and decided to skip getting water and do only 5 miles - about my limit just now - with the last mile hard.
Measuring distances in the Dome is hard. It wasn't built for running (slippery concrete, for one), but 13 laps down the middle of the concourse is within 15 yards of 5 miles. There's 40 gates per lap, so 104 gates is a mile - figuring in a little cutting corners on turns means 105 gates to be official. I figured out where I needed to start measuring and took off a bit harder. then I started pouring it on. The young bucks going in the direction for faster runners started to look at the old guy pushing too fast for the over 7 min/mile direction. People started noticing that they were getting passed for the second time in only 5 or so laps.
I started to push. My feet and ankles were going "pound, slap, creak, pop; pound, slap, creak, pop" but they didn't hurt much. I began wheezing. The faster I went, the harder it was to breathe; I'd hear whoever it was behind me again and I'd go harder, though I was starting to run on one lung at this point...
I'd been looking at running an indoor mile this winter, as it's all I could get ready for in time. I was in about 6:30 shape (hardly where I want to be) and felt I could train to break 6... except I couldn't train. Nothing was going right, but, for one day...
I cranked the last lap. I gave it all I had and for a brief shining moment, I was fully me at my best.
5:58 last mile. Total: 5 miles in 35:10.
Just something to carry me through Thanksgiving.
5 days ago