What Dreams May Come – Two Runs Before My First Marathon
“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy. ” [Ray Charles]
As I leave the lecture hall yesterday, my students are crowding around the exit. “What’s going on”, I think, making my way through the crowd.
Excellent. It’s pouring rain. It’s getting dark. As I get in my car, and start the engine, the thermometer reads 11C (51F). And I have my second last run before the marathon.
I grudgingly recall a conversation with Coach Mike, where I ask him whether I can do any of my training runs on a treadmill. He looks up in disbelief. His eyes say: “Fucking treadmill?”, but he does not swear, so instead he settles on firm “No, Solo!”. I sigh.
Today looking at the wetness and coldness that I am about to encounter, I sigh again. A thought of maybe doing the run some other time crosses my mind. I squash it. Mercilessly.
As Margaret wrote in a recent blog post, recounting the Fuego Y Agua 50k: “Every time it got a little tense I employed my mantra for the day, “we don’t have to do this twice, it isn’t dark, and we aren’t in homemade sandals”.
Yeah, no kidding. I construct a similar approach in my head. “It’s not the middle of the night. I don’t have to crawl though mud. I will have a hot shower in an hour.”. As I reach my gym, I change into my running gear so quickly and vigorously, you would think I had a personal training session with the Wolverine. Instead, I slap on my GPS and head out into the rain.
First few steps – I am wondering how many minutes it will take me to get drenched. Twenty seconds in, I realize I may not need that long. The drivers are staring as I’m running by.
As I turn onto a trail, it’s getting dark. Running through the forested area, I entertain myself with thoughts of serial killers.
“Is it raining out there?”, the girl at the front desk asks. I am dripping wet, so it’s a lazy joke, but I play along to be nice. “Yeah, a little. How can you tell?”.
My fingers are so cold, I can barely open my locker. I managed not to make any changes to my running apparel between the months of May and October. It may be time to get out something warmer than a t-shirt and running crops. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I came down with pneumonia three days before the marathon?”, I ponder. When I share the potential hilarity with Italian later in the evening, he does not seem to share the joke.
Daytime anxieties aside, it’s the dreams in the week before a big race where the fun happens.
[photo circa 2002]
This week I dream of convocations, documentaries and helicopters.
A tall guy looking suspiciously like Hunter McIntyre, tries to drown me in a muddy lake. He is reaching out with his hands, long hair framing his face, his gaze is empty.
I am shot in the head. I wonder whether actually being shot in the head feels anything like it does in my dream. A numbness spreads over my body. It does not hurt. In fact, in a last attempt of scientific inquiry, I start opening and closing my fingers in a fist, waiting to see when the numbness reaches the finger tips.
As I walk down the stairs, a dark haired man is making out with two women in the staircase. Downstairs, an attractive Indian man is sitting on a couch and playing with his wedding ring. He looks up. “I think my wife is cheating on me”. He smiles nervously, keeps rotating his ring.
Before I have a chance to answer, the door opens, and woman enters. I recognize her from the staircase. “Oh, there you are!”, she exclaims, seeing her husband. The fake enthusiasm cuts my ear. The man gets up from the couch, and clutches her hand. There is certain desperation in his gestures. I look away.
The race starts at 8.45am, and the goal is to be there for 8 – with plenty of time to spare. In all the commotion of trying not to drown, bearing witness to staircase indiscretions and getting shot, the time blurs. Next time I glance at my watch, it’s 10.38am.
I don’t have my bib. I don’t have my GPS watch. I… missed it. I MISSED IT.
Familiar numbness spreads over my body. I wonder whether this is anything like actually being shot in the head.