Today ended a several day drought during which I conjured every possible excuse to avoid lacing up my running shoes and dipping my toes back into that reservoir of pain I call my running schedule. Oh, I had handfuls of excuses and plenty to justify my absence from the trail, but most of it apocryphal or delusional. The honest truth is that I could've easily pushed through the pain and sweat out the hangover, but I just didn't.
Well, that came to an end today. I felt the beer and whiskey of the previous several days coming back to haunt me. But I fought through it and bounced back all the stronger. Had to start the day with a triple-espresso, though. I find that coffee gives courage. I knew I would be in pain, but somehow that bitter black caffeinated bit of joy made me buck up and stiffened my spine. I wonder if soldiers in battle drink espresso before jumping out of the trenches.
Which reminds me of something. I recall only a few years ago never even having run a full mile without stopping. My attitude then seemed fairly simple; why in the hell would I ever want to run? I'll run if somebody's chasing after me.
But later I learned the joy of endorphins. Ah yes, the sweet sweet biochemistry of our human form. We put ourselves through pain that our bodies might tap into their innate pain-relief reservoirs. You feel the sweet numb rush, the release of all stress and worry and desire. You push through the pain that inevitably wells up, and the body has its mechanisms to push back.
But I return to the soldier in his trench. His is an involuntary release and a constant one. Whatever pain relief might be won through a hard run between trenches is inevitably counteracted by the stress chemicals flooding the brain due to constant fear of death and bombardment. I have no such worries, thankfully. I wonder if such chemicals might be useful in achieving heretofore unknown speeds and stride. I did once run by a vicious dog, and he growled, and my pace did pick up a bit. No pun intended. But the dog was not explosive, nor holding a grenade or improvised explosive device, or even a rough bludgeoning tool. He did have knives though, the kind we find attached to the ends of a dog's incisors. I wonder if there might be a correlation between the size of a dog's teeth, and the increase in speed by a passing-by runner. I imagine there is a very direct relationship.
Today while running I did see some curious life forms along the trail, but certainly nothing threatening. Near the Congress avenue bridge, the trails juts a bit south and runs along Riverside, all because a few apartment complexes and businesses bought the lakeside land along a quite scenic bluff. One of these businesses happens to be Joe's Crab Shack.
Joe's Crab Shack always seemed to me like the waiting area for a roller coaster at a theme park. You know, the fake wood, the scrawled handwritten signs, the weathered siding on the building, all carefully placed just so, providing the feel of an old "crab shack," presumably owned by a guy named Joe. It is a soulless affair and fully worth ignoring. Today, though, I ran by and saw a flock of about 20 or so ducks marching across the parking lot, plodding their way towards the lake from a nearby creek. And the juxtaposition struck me and filled me with joy. It was an incongruity that resonated with the string of my heart and reminded me that, in nature, shit lives alongside beauty, and it's all fleeting anyway. And that's the dance of life. Imagine --> possibly the most soulless place in Austin - the oil-stained stretch of cracked concrete fronting a fabricated, soul-less corporate sham of a restaurant. And an image of simple beauty dances across this barren landscape.
Perhaps life is like this. The beauty and the shit are inseparable, and to receive life's glory, we have to sort through its refuse.
Just make sure to wash your hands.