I still consider myself a relatively new runner, even though I’ve been doing it with a moderate amount of consistency for about three years now.
Nope. Scratch that. I just recalculated, it’s only been two years. Math is hard. That actually makes me feel better. If it had really been three years, I should probably suck at it less than I do.
Anyway, I am still a newish runner. I have, however, definitively decided running between May and mid-September in Arizona is utter bullshit and I do not enjoy it even a little bit. Between May and September, I have to cajole myself into getting up at ridiculous hours simply for the luxury of not actually dying of heat stroke during my standard four miles. Even when I’m successful and out on the road by 5 AM, it’s 93 degrees and every step is torture.
I’ve found the only way to even get through is by distracting myself from the misery. Sometimes this involves repeating to myself, Don’t think about how horrible this is. Don’t think about how horrible this is. over and over until the sentence loses all meaning and my mind naturally drifts to something else.
So, this morning when I dragged myself out of bed at 5:14, I was not looking forward to the five miles I had planned. I was tired and the last time I did this loop, I ended up with some kind of wacky heat exhaustion that caused me to sweat profusely for hours after the run even though I was freezing. I think Jason is still traumatized by the memory of me curled up on the couch, wrapped in a towel to soak up the sweat and two blankets on top to keep the shivering to a minimum. I broke my internal thermostat or something. It was not normal.
But I had planned to do my five miles today, and I knew if I didn’t I’d have to live in a shame spiral all day, so I sucked it up and went.
Right away it felt different. My head wasn’t pounding. My cheeks didn’t immediately feel like they were on fire. There wasn’t sweat pouring into my eyes. It was almost… nice.
I took the East path out of my subdivision. I ran alongside the road at McKellips where they’re building this weird bridge across the road they’ve been talking about for the last five years. I turned North on Ellsworth where that crazy lady hit and killed two people back in April, and I began the uphill portion of this loop that’s always fairly unpleasant.
Except, it wasn’t that unpleasant today. I didn’t have to talk myself out of walking 8 times. I didn’t have to mentally run through the list of terrible things I’ve eaten in the last two days to shame myself into continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t that bad.
I turned West on McDowell, knowing I was about halfway done and most of what I had left was downhill, and I was feeling pretty damn fantastic. The air was still cool, it was plenty light enough, but the sun wasn’t really up yet and Benny and the Jets was on Pandora (I’m pretty sure he’s not signing about electric boobs, but it really, really sounds like he is, right?).
I coasted along for another half-mile-ish and crested the peak of McDowell road, which lands about mid-way between Ellsworth and Hawes. At this point, McDowell is just a two lane road between neighborhoods that sometimes has a sidewalk, but is mostly just edged by natural desert. It’s also a straight, downward sloping, 20ish mile shot to Papago Peaks.
The sun, behind me, was just starting to get high enough to shed light on the valley. As I ran, I watched the curtain of shade over that Tempe/Phoenix area right near Papago Park, slowly draw back to reveal tiny copper and green sparkling buildings. The road T-ed right between the two peaks down in the city below, and the remnants of last night’s full moon still hung, bright white against the cloudless blue sky, directly above.
I couldn’t help but feel like somehow I’d won the lottery of circumstances for that moment in time. I know it’s incredibly cheeseball of me and I partially blame the endorphins for that (those endorphins will fuck you up but good), but with the symmetry of the road between the two mountains and the moon hanging above, and the light, it felt like I was in exactly the perfect spot at exactly the perfect instant to experience this flawless bit of beauty that will probably never exist precisely the same way again. I feel a little fucking teary about it right now, even. (Goddamn endorphins.)
When I reached Hawes and turned South, I felt a little sad, for a second, that I was leaving behind the amazing view. Then I turned my head to the left and glanced at where the sun was peeking up from the East. It turned out the sun was rising from behind a hill and the Eastern portion of the sky was littered with small, even, patchwork-type clouds that were dark on the top and West, and glowed like what I think Heaven would look like if I believed in it, from behind. It was, at the very least, an equally spectacular view to what I had just experienced.
I finished my run without once considering just not eating anymore at all instead of forcing myself to regularly run. As I was finishing, I realized, Oh, right… I actually do like to run.
(Just not between May and September.)