There was a flash flood today. I know, because I was outside, running.
I hate running. And sprinting, and jogging, and fast-walking with a slight hop — the whole spectrum, really. It’s not the setting, the outdoors — give me more of that, overcast or sunny. But I hate the actual running part, the part I am bad at it. I hate it even when I do it consistently, when I see measurable progress: longer distances, quicker times, fewer pounds, smaller sizes. Those people who talk about runner’s highs and feeling accomplished and “channeling their stress”? They’re aliens or frauds, as far as I can tell. They seem to truly enjoy it, but that’s foreign to me.
I hate running, and I have always hated it, and I carry my whole life of hating it with me. I run, and I remember. I am 8 and losing at tag or Red Rover, and already, at 8, feeling ashamed, inferior. I am 11, trying to catch my breath at soccer practice, and a couple of miles — even in intervals — seems too much. I am 14 and unsure of my body, doing video exercise programs in my living room, trying to sweat my way to self-acceptance. I am 21, on a treadmill, hoping to earn love with smaller thighs. I am me, today, and a couple of miles still seems too much.
It’s all psychological, I know. I am capable, I know. I can do whatever distance I set my mind to, with effort and practice, I know. But I rarely believe. I am better at self-sabotage than discipline, at excuses than finish lines. To push does not come naturally. Sometimes, though, I think “I can” (or at least “I will”), lace up my pink Nikes, and head out the door.
This afternoon, it was raining a bit; it’s the Pacific Northwest, no big deal. The rain quickly turned to a downpour, but I was wet already and didn’t mind. The downpour turned to a flash flood, but I was already laughing.
The rain kept dumping down and I kept sloshing forward, and my waterproof jacket and skin were fully soaked through, and puddles seeped into my shoes, and the water on the street rose up around my ankles, — and there were no cars on the road (not even Oregonians go out in weather like this), no people in their driveways (these suburbanites usually live in their garages), I was alone with the wild rain — and I crossed over a creek overflowing, and the wind whistled its sharp deluge song, and the muddy paths washed out so I hobbled through underbrush, dodging blackberry thorns, and I ran, and oh, I remembered: I am 10, wide awake at three in the morning, opening my window to feel the summer wind slap my house with its thrilling fury; I am 15 and playing my favorite summer camp game, barely making it to the safe zone without getting tagged; I am 16 and fleeing down a midnight alley with my best friends after pranking a teacher’s house; I am 20 and barefoot, splashing around outside my dorm room, racing a friend across the parking lot to find the deepest puddle.
I carry my whole past with me, but I am also me, today, and it’s not fair, it can’t be, to feel so alive. I run, and I love it, as I push toward home, hoping the rain never stops.