Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Running with Gene Kelly, Sans Umbrella

If you've ever experienced a Missouri rain storm, then you know the awesome volume of water that can be produced in a short amount of time. If you've ever been out running during one of these gulley-washers, then you know there comes a point when trying to wipe the water from your face is an exercise in futility; when the thought of jumping around puddles to keep your shoes dry becomes pointless; when there are no more high spots on the sidewalks; when the streets become streams and those streams have a palpable current. If you've ever been caught in one of these down pours, you realize there's no point in trying to rush home. You won't get there before your feet feel like you're running in water balloons. No, might as well ride it out. In fact, this becomes the perfect opportunity to revisit your childhood and stomp your way through a drainage ditch. Why not? Can't get any wetter.

Beyond the deluge, beyond the soaked shoes and dripping dry weave, something else bubbles up inside you--any other rational person would be tucked safely inside their warm, dry house. Those rational people might include other runners. Even so, here you are, sloshing through the streets, knowing you're getting stronger. In fact, there's a certain irrational pride that bolsters you, a haughtiness that steels your resolve to finish your miles, to appraise other runners who sit idly at home with a sidelong smirk. There is a camaraderie in the rushed, perfunctory wave between runners on nights like this, a certain gesture of approval and shared "Are we crazy?" An unanswered "Yeah, but isn't it great?"

My shoes will eventually dry out and my hat brim will too, but what I gained is much more permanent. What I gained is the pride in commitment. What I earned was another notch in my "Will I ever be a runner again?" column. What I collected was one more three-miler on my training log, and those curtains of heavy rain only made the miles seem more powerful.

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