Saturday, November 26, 2011

Run

I went for a run today.

A nice run. I was thinking it may have been, in fact, the best run of my life- and quite possibly the longest since I was sixteen, which was... a while ago.

I'd been building up to this run for some time - I tried to pull it off a week or so ago, but I twisted my ankle and had to abort the mission, with horrible visions of prolonged physical therapy and abandoned mid-life running careers dancing in my head. Luckily, I really hadn't twisted it that badly and after a couple mellow runs this week I decided I could handle something more serious today. I didn't set out to break any personal records, but I ended up doing just that.

So what was the big deal about this run? Well, first of all, it's kind of remarkable that I've been running at all, and I should know better than to even write about it at this point as I could stop again next week for another ten years or so. But, in fits and starts over the last couple years, I have been running with a teeny bit more regularity and it feels really good. And the big deal about today? I ran for a full forty minutes.

I was very busy patting myself on the back about this, much like when I ran 35 minutes a couple months ago, until I plotted my course in some Google Maps application thingie and discovered that I'd only run four miles. That took some of the wind out of my sails. But I run for time, not distance, so who cares if I'm running fairly slowly? I'm forty-two and mostly sedentary for crying out loud. More importantly it's a milestone, a benchmark, working up to bigger and better things, like 10 kilometers, which I believe is the minimum distance for any type of race. I'm only a couple miles off that goal, which puts it in striking distance.

I never even considered running a race until a few months ago, when I read In the Long Run by Jim Axelrod. Honestly, I wouldn't have read this book if Jim wasn't married to my cousin, but he is, which is a good thing because it's an enjoyable book and it's given me a goal for my exercise. Not necessarily to run a marathon, which was his goal in the book (and one he achieves) but at least to run a 10k before I turn 50. That should be doable. And then who knows? A half marathon? Perhaps a bit ambitious for this couch potato.

The great thing about my run today was that it was mostly along the ocean, which is something I tend to forget is just a stone's throw away from where I live. Unfortunately, I did something I hate to do to enjoy this nice ocean run- I drove my car. I hate the idea of burning fossil fuels in order to get my exercise, especially if the exercise involves moving myself from one place to another. It was a great point of pride with me when I lived in New England and could cross-country ski right out my back door and vanish into the wilderness.

Of course, I could run to the ocean from my house, which was exactly what I was doing when I twisted my ankle the other day. The problem is, since my runs are relatively short, it would take most of the run just to get to the good part. The other problem is that there is no pleasant and safe route between here and there; the best one I've come up with has lots of traffic and nasty bombed-out sections of sidewalk. Not to mention the feces.

I hate to say it but one of the predominant smells on these runs has been of human shit. In most of the places I run. Then again, I am subjected to the smell of other people's leavings pretty much on a daily basis, and it seems to have gotten worse lately. A large homeless population and virtually no public access to toilets- what do you expect? There is another route I can run that takes me to the ocean much more quickly, with a paved footpath separated from the traffic by a tall cement barrier, and a beautiful view of the water. Sounds great, right? Only problem - a pile of poop every couple of feet. Some of these are fresh and stinky, but I think even worse are the dessicated ones, which turn to dust, and blow around, and... you get the idea. It also runs along the top of a nasty little favela, populated with sketchy looking types who wanted to talk to the gringo. I ran that way once, and never again.

This time I decided to skip the hassle, and the stench, and the bombed out sidewalks, and drove my car down to Barra, which is a much fancier neighborhood than my own. From there I ran along the coast with throngs of others and if there was dung nearby I couldn't smell it for the sea breeze. I ran through Ondina, another fancy bairro, and up to the beginning of Rio Vermelho, right near where I used to train Capoeira. Twenty minutes. At my stately pace of 10 minutes/mile, I figured I could have gotten there from my house in about 40 minutes, which wasn't much longer than it took me in my car a couple times. From there I doubled back, intending to run only 10 more minutes and walk the rest of the way. But at about the 28 minute mark, I changed my mind. I felt fine, my ankle wasn't bothering me, why not try for that forty-minute-run I had been shooting for previously? So I did. I ran all the way back to the lighthouse in Barra- 41.5 minutes. I was a happy man with a runner's high- it was awesome.

My life has actually changed quite a bit in the last two months, and I've been meaning to write about it but just haven't been able to carve out the time. I feel much more like a normal person these days, which is a good thing. More details at a later date.

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