Every afternoon, it seemed, he was there. Plodding along. The running runner who runs. Or ran. This was long ago.
In the quiet California neighborhood of my youth there was this guy who would jog through the ivy lined streets with a regularity that fascinated & repulsed me. I don’t know where he was coming from or where he went, but he’d huff & puff his way past my house and in moments he’d be gone for another day. With his white headband, white running shorts, and yellow tank top he seemed like an odd ball to me. Especially because he seemed old and out of shape. Paunchy. A little bit hairy. Just, over the hill. I mean, he was like 40 or 50!
I am sure, he wore other running outfits, but that yellow tank is how I picture him in my mind. Just pushing it through our little piece of the world. One foot in front of the other, just passing through, minding his own business. Nothing but running on his mind as he trampled past our houses without sidewalks or streetlights. It sounds rural, but it wasn’t. It was a kind of rip off of L.A. neighborhoods of Topanga or Laurel Canyon. A bit secluded, a great place for a run. It was a place that I recognize when movies are set in California, (and sometimes when they’re not because they’re still filmed in California). You know, when they have those scenes with the late-afternoon sun just right, everything looks like it is glowing and beautiful. It’s the time of day just near sun down when the sun’s rays pass sideways through our atmosphere. It’s known as the Magic Hour, but I’m sure you knew that.
There he is, running through the golden streets of my mind. I remember thinking that he was wasting his time, that his exercise regimen wasn’t working, and that he was a little bit crazy. Oh the stupidity of questioning youth! In my know-it-all, arrogant, little kid brain, he was just a lurching fool who was too old to ever do anything cool.
What a judgmental little chump I was, huh?
So, now I’m the one huffing & puffing through the streets. Here I am, jogging through the paradise in the desert that I call home. The lush yards and tall trees look familiar, having more in common with Southern California neighborhoods than the actual Sonoran Desert part of Arizona where I now reside. It’s a trip and ecological disaster, no doubt, but it’s home!
I run. Because now I get it. I know what Yellow Tank knew way back when. It doesn’t matter if you are chubby and hairy and seem out of shape, and you are well-anchored within the statistical grouping known as middle-age. (By the way, Yellow Tank was probably younger than I am now!) Regardless, I now know that it doesn’t matter what you are or how you look, the road is there for the taking and once you leap into those running shoes it is kind of powerful. It allows you to focus on running and let everything else float away. You can literally leave everything in your dust for awhile. I know that the reasons we run are personal and it matters not a bit what people think. Today I went 3.26 miles without stopping, and that is a hell of a benchmark for me, because I was never a runner. I looked at Yellow Tank and that running business like an intelligent roach looks at a motel. It wasn’t for me.
But now it is and I find myself thinking about the next run, wanting to improve and go farther. I plan routes in my head. I get irritated by my joints because they are sore. (Now who’s crazy?) And I don’t mind that some know-nothing kid judges me as I go by. It’s okay. Sure, I look out of shape and slow and, if I rocked a tank-top, (which I promised my loving wife that I would not), hairy, but I don’t give a damn. I don’t care what some misguided kid thinks, because I feel great and that kid doesn’t know what it’s like. Completing a run feels like conquering the world at just the right time of day when everyone looks gorgeous and perfect. Running is our own personal Magic Hour!
So, for what it’s worth, Yellow Tank, I’m sorry I judged you. You were right. Run on!
(Note: This was my first post written on a Kindle. I kind of like it!)