God, that was a good run. Why?
Long version: I went on today's run with a chip on my shoulder. I was carrying the emotional debris of yesterday's post, to begin with. I'd thought the Juul reading would take an hour or so to finish, and it took four hours. Five, counting that blogpost. Which meant I got home at 2:30 am. Which meant I got six hours of sleep. Today was also the first day where it's clear the snow is around to stay, and that's a mood-setter, if you let it be. Then I spent a good portion of today running around trying to track down a laptop for my students (although the downtime downtown was really nice, mostly thanks to good company). Back on campus, I felt inundated with minutiae (It's my blog and I'll use fancy vocabulary if I want): I had to drop off the laptop, get the key from the mailroom, carry a package from the mail room to my office, return a recalled book to the library, go up to the 10th floor to get a book on the rhetoric of instruction manuals (gonna bet they weren't thinking of game manuals), remember that I still had the mailroom key, return the mailroom key, and run at top speed to reach a bus that was pulling away. So I finally get home at around 5, which means the sun is setting. It's at that point I realize that I've lost my debit card, so I have to go the local grocery store and wait around until the floor manager's free so I can reclaim it. I get home, get ready for the run, and it's 5:30, which means the sun has already set.
And thus, I was in a bad mood for my run.
And because of the mood I was in, I wasn't taking the precautions I should have been. I was in a "cars make way for pedestrians, dammit" sort of mood. That misguided view came to a head when I came to a certain corner. There was a main road going east-west, and a road that joined it going south; the only traffic guiding element was a stop sign on the south road. So I'm running east across this walk while a car going west is turning left. I have to jump to avoid being hit, and it honks at me. At which I, being rather annoyed already yell, "IT'S A CROSSWALK!". The rejoinder came in that special tone that only a young male can properly affect: "GET THE FUCK OFF THE ROAD ASSHOLE!".
I'm pretty sure that a pedestrian crossing at a marked pedestrian crosswalk has the right of way in this situation, but that's not the point; if I hadn't been so wrapped up in my own gloom at that point, I probably wouldn't have been in situation to begin with. My anger was endangering me, and I needed to calm down. And thus I did. I took some deep breaths, and ran on, sans iPod and music, just me and cold weather clothing, moving in the night. And once i settled into that groove, it struck me that this was all very familiar.
Those with particularly good memories may recall that I've previously said that I started running in order to impress a girl. Though that's a gross oversimplification, it still has an element of truth. I started running way back in the summer of 2004 for that reason. But what kept me running over these next seven years wasn't misplaced masculine pride. Rather, it was night jogs in the crisp, often cold night air of the late fall and early winter.
At that point in my life, most of my self-esteem was tied into my intellectual endeavors, and for some good reasons. Unfortunately, one of those reasons was that I really, really disliked my body. I was short, short-sighted, kinda chubby, and, though this was long before the asthma days, not exactly in good health. My body was just clumsy, accident-prone, and all around faulty. What was there to be proud of? But when I started running, that changed. Sure, I was still awkward and uncoordinated, but by God, at least I had endurance, and I could continue performing awkwardly long after those smooth-functioning pretty boys had to sit down for a breather.
But while I was appreciating the effects of my running, it wasn't until that fall that I started to appreciate the running itself. I was feeling a lot of pressure from school at the time--the double major was a tough mistress to please. And I was doing marking for the Math department, which meant a pretty heavy workload some nights. Running wasn't an escape, but it was a release. There's a tranquility to a good run that sets in after a kilometer or two. It's a simple satisfaction, but a true one. It's being content in the knowledge that the whole mind/body/meat/whatever assemblage is working together to forge its way through and in the environment around it. When I'm running like that, I'm at peace with myself in a way that's a little different from anything else in my life.
And I'd forgotten that, recently. Partly because I've gotten too used to jogging with the iPod, which, love it though I do, is undeniably a distraction. And partly because I've been doing nothing but day runs, where you have to be more concerned about the fellow pedestrians you're sharing elbow room with. But mostly because I've let the running slide. Once a week, twice a week, maybe skip a week, if sometimes. I've got a lot of things to do, after all, and running's not important. But what I reminded myself today is that it is important. It's important to me, both in terms of who I want to be, and what it does for me on a day-to-day basis.
Or, to put it another way, here's the short version of why that was a good run:
It reminded me who I am. I'm a mother-fucking runner, man.
(Knock on wood, but this would be a good time to start a betting pool for how long until I have my next running-related leg injury.)