It is cold when I start and my body rebels in all the usual ways. The first five minutes are the worst, and then it’s like the cement between my joints finally warms and bends and I stop feeling like the Tin Man jolting my way down the street. The flap of my iPod cord and the shifting waistband of my pants retreats from the front of my mind, my breath deepens, my brain seems to realize that death is not yet imminent and the frantic messages to STOP THIS IMMEDIATELY quiet to the point where I can ignore them for now.
There is a sweet spot in running, and the more you do it, the better chance you have of widening that spot and staying inside it for longer. At least, this has been my experience. Maybe some people run inside it the entire time, like they’re encased in some glorious bubble where the oxygen stays rich and the muscles fresh. Me, I tend to suffer for a while, then I finally enter the spot, then all too quickly I run right out the other end and suffer my way home.
I wish I could set my brain to more creative pursuits while I am running, but mostly I think about the fact that I am running. I am digging around to find the reserves to keep going. Even when I trained for the marathon 2 years ago and learned to run for hours at a time, I pretty much spent all that time telling myself to keep going.
This isn’t pleasant, really. I am envious of people who can lose themselves in audiobooks or the scenery or their own wandering thoughts while the miles pass by. I feel like running is as mentally exhausting as flying through turbulence—those flights when you become convinced you are the one holding the plane aloft by the strength of your own fretting. Keep going, keep going, come on, come on.
Still, maybe that kind of running holds its own magic. You can do this, you can do this. Say it enough and you start to believe it. Say it enough and it stops just being about running.