I just want to run. Is that too much to ask? I simply want to, yes I’m going to say it, as bad as it will taste coming out of my mouth, JOG!
I’ve done it all my life, and it brings me unspeakable joy. Even when I was a sunburnt, freckle-faced boy, I could not wait to go for a run after school. In my mind, I raced Alberto Salazar, Bill Rogers, and Frank Shorter in the Boston Marathon. They did not stand a chance. I looked like a skeleton with a deflated balloon pulled over it, but I was tough – harder to bend than a fifty-penny nail. The more sweat that ran down my scrawny, adolescent body the faster I ran.
Maybe it was the heat, but on the back roads of Gordon County, I escaped a world of limitations. From those pitiful gravel roads, my mind took me to the Los Angeles Games, New York City, and the Twin Cities. They diagnosed my condition as an endorphin rush, but I couldn’t spell that, much less have known what it meant. In those days, I simply felt. As simple as that may sound, that’s exactly, precisely, the perfectly accurate description – I felt.
I did not have words to explain the feelings I experienced at that time in my life. In fact, it never occurred to me that there should be words to describe the pleasure I experienced between the ditches of a road whose name was not printed on a green sign, yet etched in the mind of every resident of Ranger, Georgia. It was my world and my escape – my drug. Like breathing air or drinking water, I suppose it was just something I took it for granted.
That was years ago. I probably should not even remember it, but when I stop for just a minute and reflect, a fire that once raged in my soul is kindled once again. And for a moment, I am transported back to a time when we boys faked farts under their armpits, shot spitballs at one another, and I laced up a pair of Nike Waffle Racers to take on the world.
Today, every time I take a step some demon I cannot see sticks an ice pick into my right knee, and I feel like Sampson after a clean shave and a haircut. I don’t like getting angry when I see others jogging down the road, but I do. No matter how slow they are plodding along, I envy them, and somehow wish I could remove that pin stuck in my voodoo doll and slip it into theirs. It is more frustrating than feeding a vending machine quarters only to have the last bag of Doritos hang up on that curly wire instead of dropping.
Nevertheless, hope is a powerful thing. I cling to the hope that the next surgery will cure my ills, that once again I’ll feel the cool breeze of fall in my face, and in my own mind I’ll break the tape at Boston, skinny and proud, if only in the secrecy of my mind.