Monday, January 12, 2009

Leaden Skies Allowed Me to Soar

You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever

Last month I posted about spending twenty-five minutes in a full body MRI machine. I coped with the claustrophobic nature of it by imagining that I was on one of my most familiar runs, a two and a half mile out-and-back to the school yard a mile and a quarter up the way. If I'm on my game, it should take me twenty minutes, ten minutes out and ten minutes back, an 8:00 pace. It was a dreamy run, one which I unfolded in my head in real time as best as I could gauge it, as I lay within the confining chamber.

In my dream I passed the first mile in 8:10; and after making the turnaround in the school parking lot, I brought the virtual run home in 19:50 (7:55), utilizing the downhill nature of the return to make up those lost seconds. I encountered all the real-world things I expected to, running by the cemetery, over the creek at the bottom of the route, and up the big hill just before the mile marker.

In late December I actually ran the route again, a run during which I was thinking about a dream where I was running the run I was running. Leaden walls enclosed me then, leaden skies were my boundary now.

I started out from in front of my house on the grey day and rapidly rounded the corner at the end of the block. To keep under an 8:00 pace I have to get moving quickly. I ran by the road undulations the first half mile that lead past St. James Cemetery and down to the creek. At about two minutes into the run I was at my maximum discomfort in terms of oxygen deprivation as I struggled to acclimate myself to the fast pace, and I wished for a second that I was lying back in the metal tube in a dreamy state instead of outside laboring on a run for real. Then I glanced up at the limitless sky overhead, surveyed the wide open spaces around me, and thought, No way!

My breathing became more normal as I started up the big hill. Glancing at the sign on the bridge over the creek, I noticed that in my dream I had inserted an extraneous apostrophe in the creek's name, Tripps Run. Just up from the base of the hill, the yapping dog that has always accompanied me along his house's fence line again did not come out, just as in the dream, and I suspect that the littler feller is not alright.

I pushed up the hill in real life, knowing this was where I had fallen off my 8:00 pace in my dream. Past the steep first part, past the more gentle incline of the middle part, past the steepest grade of the last part, past the white-columned house near the top, over the crest and down into the little hollow below, where the mile marker is. I passed the first mile in 7:48, well ahead of my pace in my dream run. Around the further turn, I hit the turnaround at 9:30 for the first mile and a quarter. I knew my sub-8:00 pace (twenty minutes for the run) was assured now; because of the upcoming big downhill, the second half of the run is always faster on this run unless I dawdle.

I hit my driveway ending the two and a half mile run at 18:52 (7:33), a particulalrly fast run for me. I had pushed it throughout, delighted to be in the great outdoors on the run rather than inside a small metal coffin during it. I rarely go sub-19:30 on this fast run. Although I ran a negative split, it was only by eight seconds for the last mile and a quarter, which showed, given the benefit of the long downhill, that I was tiring near the end.

Running, be it in a dream or in actuality, is liberating.


Rainmaker said...

And it's even better when you best your dream in reality.

Susan said...

I agree; I once dreamed of a sub-4 marathon!

Petraruns said...

Amazing stuff - sometimes running just saves your bacon.. A leaden sky and then whoosh - you're greased lightning!

Sunshine said...

Mentally doing the run to make it through the MRI was a creative survival technique, I thought.

Running it for real must have been to soar! Running is good.

Myriam said...

I loved this post. I can never memorize a place to the detail you used in your metal chamber but I do day dream of other runs while I run.
Reality better than a dream...great.

David said...

Great tempo paced prose.

I use past runs and their glorious detail to put myself back to sleep in the middle of the night.