A year later and I continue to run.
Thirteen months ago I began an exercise regime spawned by the unpleasant roundness of my face and form. A week after I started I engaged a trainer who got me off the elliptical machine and on to the treadmill. Fifteen minutes was an effort, often coming after a half an hour doing weights. In time, fifteen minutes became twenty. I ran outside for the first time in years, down to the church and home, a round trip jog of about six kilometres. For the first three tries at it, I had to stop, rest and walk. Indoors, the runs grew to 25 minutes, then half an hour. Outside, I ran the distance to the church non-stop and started to add distance. Go to the bank. Go to the gas station. Go to the conservatory. I decided I would run in the Bluenose Marathon. Not the Marathon, just the 10K. I'd last run a 10K twelve years ago. I was much lighter. By now, the distance I was running outside was close to 10K but not quite. I was fairly sure I could run it, but it was an unproven expectation. My running inside on the treadmill indicated it would probably take me about an hour to finish the race.
Then I hurt my leg.
For a week I took it easy. On Friday I ran on the treadmill again for the first time just to see how things felt. They felt okay.
On Saturday when I signed up officially, a day before the gun was to go off, I wrote conservatively on the registration form that my expected time was one hour, ten minutes. My goal was just to run it. Lollygag. Enjoy myself. Finish.
Standing in the crowd at the the start line, something changed about 10 minutes before we got the gun. Some competitive fire ignited and I decided I was going to by-god RUN it. I had a good run (for a re-beginner) and I used some of the tips from my trainer, adding little sprints on the downhill parts of the course, letting my long legs stride out. At the end of the run, I made it a long sprint, picking out people in front of me, passing them, picking out someone else.
A funny thing started to happen about four or five blocks from the finish line. My nose began to run. It was a new and strange reaction of my body to the stress I was putting on it, manifest as a runny nose. I could feel it and I wiped it away. But it kept running. Like
syrup from an open spigot. The strangest thing!
I finished in about 54 minutes which while no great shakes to the seasoned runner, was pretty good for me. Much faster than I had expected, maybe faster even than that younger man who 12 years ago used to be me.
Like Bill Cosby says in one of his bits, I told you that story to tell you this one.
I still run.
My distances grow longer. I'm up to 16 km and I want to do the half-marathon this year.
My nose still gets very snuffly as I exert myself on the road and I do a yucky thing to clear it. I put a finger aside of my nose ... and blow. Repeat for other nostril. It's pretty gross. I try to execute this evolution when there is a lull in traffic because I'm very self aware, I know this is a pretty gross practice. It is easily offset by the wonderful feeling of able to breathe.
Breathing beats good manners every single time.
I also run alone.
No iPod, no partner, just the voices in my head, a running (ha-ha) commentary about the journey, reflections, rehearsals, self-encouragement and witness.
I'm over forty now. It's the year men realize they are going to die. I can write a whole other piece about this, and maybe I will. But for now, my mind zooms up a hundred feet above me as I run, and I see me on a route that I've marked as I blow my nose; in some way that paradoxically is simultaneously both absolutely insignificant and completely significant, parts of me, my DNA, a portion of my essence falls to combine forever with the earth as I pass on and keep running.
Like a Johnny Appleseed of snot.