This morning I got up way too early and pounded the pavement. It was the longest run in the last few years. I make myself do it three times a week at the least. The guilt is overwhelming if I can’t carve some time to go running that often. The sad thing is I feel guilty even when I do hit the self prescribed minimum. Despite forcing myself from the comfort of bed when it’s still dark, injecting relentless tunes into my skull and working up to a decent pace around a conveniently close-to-home loop, I feel guilty that I’m not doing more. My knees crack and my hips pop. I’m wearing through another pair of shoes. Still, there’s a nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough.
This machine is relentless.
I chug on and on, huffing and puffing away for no discernible reason other than my own unending drive for more. More what? Punishment? I’m not trying to lose weight. I’m not training for a marathon. I’m not training for the military. It’s as though there’s some invisible meter in my body that builds up energy over time and I feel this urge to discharge it. When I finish, gasping as I punch in the code to raise the garage door, it feels like a pressure valve has been opened over the previous hour. It vents anxiety and frustration. I can feel the pressures of life easing as I run laps around the mile and a half loop in my neighborhood.
This machine is working for me.
The pressures on my mind ease as the wear and tear increases on my body. It’s a tipping of scales. I used to take the amazing mechanics of my body for granted. I’d sit on the couch doing nothing, gorging on poison without a second thought. The tide turned a few years ago and now I’m bound and determined to run this thing right into the ground. I realized soon after the practice became habit that there was an energy exchange occurring. The higher the mental energy, the more I could burn while running. Stressed? Overwhelmed? Hard day? Give me an hour and my shoes and it’s gone. It takes the starch out. It bleeds the poison from my mind as I wear out the joints and beams. It was made over the course of thousands and thousands of years of evolution and is the most elegant, efficient system we could have. I’m already wearing it out.
This machine won’t last forever.
I’m already having to hack the system. I’m using a brace on one knee, and I can feel the other starting to creak. Special foods and recipes designed to make the most of the fuel burning process. Doing all the necessary stretches. Utilizing BPM tracking on music to push me. Running in loops around my home in case my bad knee suddenly locks up on me, out of the blue. My better half tries to find opportunities to talk me out of wearing myself down, finding reasons to sneak me a cookie or experiment with homemade ice cream. Telling me to sleep in, to take days off. She knows I’m running the machine too hard, too often. I hope she doesn’t worry, but that probably won’t stop me.
I’m going to run this whole contraption right into the ground. Sooner or later, something will give. A ligament tearing. Heatstroke in the summer. Slipping on the ice in winter. Dodging distracted drivers at intersections. Maybe I’ll trip over one of the countless startled rabbits that don’t expect me at that ungodly hour. Back pains. Bad knees. I can’t run forever. As long as the machine works, though, I’m not stopping
No, not anything political. Like me, I’m sure you are sick to death of anything even tangentially related to the election.
Since I’ve moved into my new home with my better half we’ve both noticed a strange thing happening in our minds. We drive home from where ever we have been, almost always taking the same way. The other option is less traveled but no less familiar. This more frequent route sees us taking a stretch of highway unworthy of note. It is a number and that is all. There is nothing remarkable beyond it. There are no major cities beyond our exit, no developing suburbs. We come to our exit, take the off ramp and turn down our street into our neighborhood, never looking over the horizon at what is beyond. My better half hit the nail on the head when she explained it to me as “like the edge of a map in a video game.”
What lies past that last exit?
Seemingly, nothing. Not in the sense of goon docks and tall grass. I mean in the sense that we have no preconception of where that highway goes. Think about that - don’t you usually have an idea of where a road goes, even if you don’t take it? There’s a makeshift grid in your mind, an adaptive map that adjusts to where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Rarely do we contemplate the road less traveled.
So we’re left with a highway that stretches off into the ether - overly dramatic, sure, but my mind can’t construct what is out there. Eventually one of the Dakota’s I suppose…but what’s in the vast stretch of mid-west nothing in between? It’s just developed enough around the area to suggest small towns or the gradual emergence of another suburb, but I have no frame of reference for it.
To rectify this we did what we always do - we turned to tech.
Google Earth, duh. There it was, our highway. Stretching out over the screen, leading to a series of small burgs dotting the western half of the state. Nothing of particular note, just what you’d expect when picking a random point on a map in the flyover states. It didn’t really help, though. Maybe not enough frame of reference?
I found it to be more fun and revelatory when looking at my childhood haunts on Google Earth. Forests that bordered parks spilled out on the other side. Shortcuts were instantly justified. All the odd things about where I grew up fell into an easy to understand and digestible world of North, South, East and West. Yeah, yeah, I had maps as a kid. But never like this. Now I can zip instantly to where I remember things and twist the orientation and see things in real time. Provided the data is fresh enough and the screen is detailed enough, it’s like being there.
It’s super dorky, I know, but I love this kind of memory tinkering. This weird, video-game inspired world of mine slowly gives up its secrets with every technological development. Fewer boundaries every day. The world ends somewhere, just not where we think it does.
A coworker was sick and now I’m sick. I hit a personal best in running this week. Assuming I have to spend the next 3+ days wacked out on DayQuil/NyQuil/Vitamin C boosters. I love this machine and I hate when it fails. Here’s to feeling crumb bum for a while.