April 11, 2012 at 8:13 AMSitting on the couch somewhere between zero and no motivation, I picked up the phone and left a message with my next door neighbor, Drew, hoping to use his treadmill. He and his family would probably be visiting relatives, so no one would be there. If I didn't hear from him by one o' clock, then I guessed I'd be running my ten miles on the muddy hills here at camp in my beat-up trail shoes. Minutes ticked, and I began a self-destructive series of jaded posts at the violin discussion board, and in one simple click deleted my entire biography, the one that claimed I was a violinist for the Anchorage Symphony, amongst other things. Who was I, anyway? Nobody.
"Nobody" eventually put her running pants on, laced up her mudders, and answered the phone. "...No, I was going to see if I could use your treadmill for my ten-miler since the gym is closed, but looks like I'm going to buck it up and go outside instead." Drew responded, "Oh good, I'm going on a run in a few minutes, so maybe I'll see you out there and join you for a bit."
Drew, a 4:30 miler off the couch, was a little out of my league as a running partner. Even if he chose to bear with my slow pace, I didn't really want him to see me if I crashed and burned. Hats and gloves and jacket donned, I was out the door and into the wind.
Ten miles was too far for Easter, with tears whipping across my cheek and the ground rising to swallow me. I turned around at the barn with the intent of heading home before Drew found me, but it was too late. Well, I'd already let him know he didn't have to join me, but there he was, anyway. Look out, Drew, you're tying yourself to a lead weight.
When asked, I told him this was the worst Easter of my life, then added, out of self-conscious guilt, that this was not saying much, since today wasn't really so bad. I explained, "It's just that all the stores close, and everyone goes to celebrate with their families, and George and I don't have that. We don't have a church, either. I mean, Jesus is real to me every other day, so the only thing Easter means to me is loneliness. Jesus doesn't make me feel any less alone today." There. Surely, he would turn into his own driveway as we passed, grateful to be able to find an excuse to leave. Instead, we kept running, turning around at the camp's office to head back to the barn.
The road has a couple of considerable hills, which are never easy, no matter how slow you go. In layers and thick footing, I found my pace slowing. Luckily, Drew could chat on about just about anything forever, and didn't seem to notice. We talked about training plans, teaching good form, coaching jr. high track, goals, aches and pains, and all the glory and defeat that goes along with the territory that years of running will bring.
I had to change shoes and get a drink. In an open-ended way, I headed toward my driveway, thinking that once I reached it, he would continue on to his house, and I could stop running. Instead, he waited at the door while I regrouped, as if he had all the time in the world. We headed back out.
The wind shifted to the north. Fully drenched and unable to keep my heart rate high enough to keep warm, I needed to stop and put my layers back on. I watched to see if Drew would finally leave, so I could sneak back to the house. He continued to chat as I picked my jacket up out of the snow where I'd shed it, dusted the ice off, and tucked my fingers back into my gloves.
Drew, I've observed, has never been very a competitive individual. His twin brother, Aaron, has more drive, and usually beat him at cross country races when they were in high school and college, even though Drew has more natural speed. He has some crazy stories, like the time he got third place in a collegiate 10K after losing a shoe at the starting line, when a competitor clipped his heel. You wouldn't know by first impression that he's actually a genetic lottery winner just sitting there with his ticket, slogging contentedly alongside a hopelessly limited mid-packer like me. He doesn't let on about this fact as we go.
Was that right, or did I only have a half mile to the mailbox and back and I was done? "I'll just walk this last bit to cool down while I get the mail with Ben." Stepping inside my house yet again, I was sure this time he would head on his way, and I could just quit. Instead, he used this time to explain a few resistant band strengthening exercises to help my bum knee, while I grabbed the dog and the mail key. So, it was out the door, one last time.
You know that one story about the footprints in the sand, the one where the man asks Jesus why there was only one set during the most difficult times, thinking that Jesus had abandoned him? And then Jesus says, "It was then that I carried you." The truth of the matter is, it's not sand, it's mud. And the only time there's one set in the mud is when Jesus walks back to his house after he's made sure you got through your ten-miler.
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