One of the reasons why posts haven’t been so frequent on Sub-three lately is because, in addition to work and training for a half-marathon, I’ve been taking an online course on literary non-fiction technique from the University of Toronto, taught by Ken McGoogan. I thought the course might help sharpen my skills. The piece below is one of my assignments, another way of looking at the same subject.
You are running.
Huff, huff, huff. That’s the sound of your breath.
Beneath your feet comes the crunch of gravel, twigs snapping. Sweat cascades down your face. It flows like Niagara Falls. It pours. You’re soaked. Your eyes burn from the sweat running into them.
Sweat running into your eyes. Ha. Running. That’s funny.
You keep going, forward momentum. You think your heart might burst from your chest like the scene in the first Alien movie. You know the scene: suddenly his shirt starts straining upward and twisting around and you don’t know what the fuck is going on and then suddenly this….this thing, this scrabbling, ferocious visceral glistening bit of muscle jumps out of the guy’s body and squirms away.
That’s how your heart feels.
You keep going.
Huff, huff, huff.
Why the hell are you doing this anyway? You hate running.
Yet here you are, on this road. Pa DUM, Pa DUM, Pa DUM – that’s the sound of your feet slapping the road.
Huff, huff, huff. Pa DUM Pa DUM Pa DUM.
You sound like a regular fucking symphony here.
Forward momentum. That’s all that counts.
What are you running away from?
Oh, you know all too well. The dull job. The ex-wife who hates your guts, but wants all your money. Everyone who ever told you can’t do anything or that you screw things up, or that you’re stupid, an idiot, asshole, fuck-up. Your parents. They said all that stuff to you.
Pa DUM Pa DUM Pa DUM.
You pick up the pace. You’re leaving all that shit behind. Feels good.
Whoa. Did you just think that? Feels good? Running? Really?
Huff huff huff.
Suddenly, you feel good. Five miles done. Five more left.
Stuff is flowing past you: cars, trees, houses. The road is like a treadmill under your feet, sliding away.
The past is past. The future hasn’t arrived. Pa DUM Pa DUM Pa DUM. Your feet. Your breath. You stare straight ahead, arms pumping. Everything falls away. You run. And you run. And you run.
Ah-HA. Ah-HA. Ah-HA.
Your breath is coming harder now. You’re pushing the pace, picking it up the hill. You feel like Steve Prefontaine, Reid Coolsaet or some other fast guy. You feel fast. Fleet. Quick. You’re flowing.
Arms pumping. Kicking. Killing it. Look out.
And just like that you slow down. You have another couple of miles home, but for a few minutes there it’s like one big fucking Zen moment. You are no longer aware of your surroundings or your body or anything but your breath. You don’t intellectualize about shit. It’s just you, your feet slapping the ground, the damp tech T-shirt clinging to your upper arms, some friction from the wrong pair of socks rubbing – and then it’s just you running.
Night after night you do this.
Some nights are worse than others. You struggle. You go home, tear the soaked clothes off and accept the sting of the shower and wonder what the hell you’re doing.
Other nights: look out. You rip it up.
It’s not a competition. You’re not trying to beat the mommies with their strollers, the out-of-shape joggers, the young bucks in training. You pay them no attention.
You’re looking for that sudden release of chemicals into your brain, the reward that says, here it is. This is now. You don’t need anything else.