Today, I saw Elvis. In and of itself, that's not such a rarity in Kansas City. With four casinos within spitting distance, apparently the odd sighting of the King is more dependent on the day of the week, as in Tuesdays are Skinny Elvis' day to grocery shop at Price Chopper in Parkville. He looks good, and, if I do say so, his inky black sideburns are spectacular.
I've seen some odd and amazing things, and none more than when I'm running. One cold autumn midday, about eight years ago, I ground to a halt from my run and, mouth agape, watched as the Barnum and Bailey Circus train clacked across the tracks in Royal Oak. I've seen Jupiter glow orange against the eternal night sky. I've been chased by billowing clouds of fireworks smoke, commandeering the streets of Huntington Woods. I've looked into the eyes of a doe, steadfast in the sidewalk, only to scamper into the adjacent woods. I've listened to the lions growl and the spider monkeys screech, the peacocks crowing in the darkness of the Detroit Zoo.
And then the treasures. A twenty dollar bill is the greatest monetary treasure I've found on a run, but the odd things are what I'll remember--the inner-most doll from the inside of a set of Russian nesting dolls, all chipped paint and rudimentary features; baseball cards and Nascar cards, some mottled with dirt, some protected in platic sleeves; bracelets and necklaces, earrings and charms; a man's credit card strewn carelessly on the side of the road. An ex-wife, perhaps? Who would have lost a credit card in the ditch? Once I found a pair of glasses, looked inside, and found an address, some four blocks from where they lay partially obscured under a shrub. Mom was thrilled that her daughter's second pair of glasses in the last six months had been found. Daughter hadn't even known she had lost them.
So that's what I miss the most about my long runs, that sense of discovery, of a hidden world that can only be observed in the quiet hours of running. I still dream about running, and I still classify myself as a runner, though with a realistic, self-depracating caveat.
If Elvis can browse the produce department, all gold-rimmed sunglasses and rhinestone-studded denim jacket, I can rise to become a runner once again.