Wednesday, 20 July 2011

#10: Paperback Writer

Writing is hard. And yet here I am thinking I can do it. Believe me, I can't! And I know this. But I'll keep at it and hope I learn something in the meantime. Today I thought I'd try my hand at what I'm calling 'creative' writing. Perhaps it should really be called what it really is: time wasting. Anyway, without further ado... my attempt at creative writing.

Recreational Runners: Why we do what we do.

Beep. Beep. Beep. The alarm goes off for the third time. This time I'm really getting up. The clock now reads 7:30. The room is pitch black. It's Sunday morning in early January and I can hear and almost feel the howling winds beyond the walls. I peer through the blinds and see the fresh 10cm of white snow that's collected since the night before. The sky is just beginning to brighten to what will be another gray overcast day. I manage to get myself out of bed and hit the 'brew' button on the coffee maker which I set the night before. I make it to the bathroom still half asleep and look in the mirror only to see a half-familiar figure staring back at me. A few minutes later I'm spreading a gob of peanut butter on a toasted whole-wheat bagel and eating a mostly rotten banana. Two cups of coffee later and I still feel no effect. I shiver involuntarily and try to ignore the goose bumps all over my body. It's now almost 8am and there are still 60 minutes before I'm set to leave. I've managed to fuel myself, wake up my body (mostly) and even get the bathroom business taken care of (you know what I mean). I sit in front of my small portable space heater to the point where it actually feels as if my skin were burning. I kill some time online and the first site I visit is of course the weather network. Minus 16; feels like minus 26. I guess it could be worse. I go through the laundry hamper and try to decide which already used articles of running gear are most suitable. The most necessary (ie the warmest ones) are also the ones that have seen the most miles this week without making it into the wash. I'm sure it will be too cold to notice. In a couple minutes I'm wearing multiple layers and am covered from head to toe. It's 8:45 so I slap on my Garmin GPS and head out the back door. I almost immediately reconsider. I am now fully awake and alert! My asics disappear in the fresh snow and my face instantly turns red from the combination of wind and cold. The 2 minutes it takes the Garmin to locate the satellites feels like 20. Finally I muster the motivation to move my legs and depart onto the empty streets of Toronto. There is no one to be seen or heard. Briefly I picture the vast number of unknown individuals who are still warm and snug in their peaceful slumber. Many of them might not even step foot outside all day; why would anyone want too?! The GPS sounds and I know I've just done the first kilometre of the day. How many more will there be? Was it 25(km) today? Or was it 28?! I try not to think about it. My body is already telling me that this is not what it wants to be doing. Aches and pains, soreness and stiffness...and this is just the beginning! I make it to the west-end Y(MCA) just before 9am and see a small but committed group of fellow Longboaters lingering inside around the entrance soaking up the heat. A brief smile crosses my face as I know I am not alone and somehow this makes it all feel a bit better. I look down to stop my watch: 10min down; only 2 more hours to go...

I'm lying wide awake staring up at the ceiling. I've been doing this for 30min. I glance over at the clock only to see that a mere 2 minutes have gone by since my last inquiry. The perpetual hum of the fan grows incessantly louder. I can feel the dampness of my sweaty skin as I try to be perfectly motionless but it doesn't make it better. The room is fully illuminated despite the blinds being drawn. The east facing windows eat up the early morning sun and somehow radiate its warmth exponentially. I roll over and switch off the alarm just as the first piercing beep begins. It's 6am, Sunday, on a mid-July morning. Calling for a high of 30 degrees but it always feels much more. It's already in the low 20's and the humidity rises by the minute. I jump out of bed and have an instinctive desire to intake fluids (rather than dispel them). I down a half-litre of cold water and even before I finish, I start dancing around trying not to give in from the overwhelming demand to empty my bursting bladder. I contemplate having a cold shower but don't seem to have the energy to do it. I'm exhausted in a way that I really can't explain. Not physically. Not really emotionally. Spiritually?! Naw, that can't be it! The whole house is already baking. I know it's probably cooler outside than it is in. I force-feed myself some bread and fruit; I have absolutely no appetite. I drink some more water until my stomach feels full. 6:30am. Still 90min before I need to be there. I refuse to put on any additional clothing until I absolutely must. I stand directly in from of the fan and get little relief from the warm air hitting my face; at least I'm not sweating any more. The internet says it's already 24 degrees but feels like 30. I try to imagine what 30 feels like. I start to reminisce about those cold March mornings with minus 10 or even 20. It must have felt better than this. I eagerly want to begin, only because it will then be over sooner. A few minutes before eight I lace up my shoes, throw on my shortest shorts and lightest tech-t-shirt and head out the door. How many days this year have I re-enacted this familiar routine already? From -30 to +30 degrees in 6 months! Why can't I recall the days in between? I start out at a snail's pace and already the beads of sweat begin to form. There isn't a cloud in the sky with means the sun is free to follow me unperturbed. I follow the same 2k route as always to the Y and this time see the odd individual, often making their way home after a long night out. I envy them for the shortest of seconds. I try and think how I will feel in an hour, in two...but can't seem to do it. Perhaps it's for the best. My brain must have laughed at the thought of doing 30k on a day like today; but now that I'm actually here doing it, it must be scrambling to find a way to survive. Surely we will get through it?! I arrive at the Y to find several others stretching outside. The looks on their faces tells it all. Are we really doing this? Is this actually going to happen? We silently and mutually confirm our own stupid insanity and by doing so also deny its presence. Surely we can't ALL be so crazy?! We cling to the belief that what we're doing is good for us, is "healthy," and makes us better. Secretly it is this irrational behaviour that allows us to claim some sort of self-righteous superiority over the masses who are currently sleeping comfortably in their air-conditioned accommodations. Whether we are running to get fitter, get faster, get slimmer or get slender, we are all running for the same feelings of self-satisfaction, social inclusion and simple serenity. And this is what makes it all worthwhile.

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