Monday, October 26, 2015

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Kenber

For once it was a cool October morning as I made my way to Griffith Park for another Team to End AIDS run, getting my boogie on to Charles Bernstein’s unforgettable score to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (I just got the box set from VareseSarabande). But as soon as I arrived, Coach Jennifer informed us that it was not going to stay that way. Even as autumn continues to show its true colors, summer keeps butting its head in any chance it gets. What is this, Hawaii?

Coach JC started off with his usual list of important things to remember, and then hegot a buttercream pie made out of pickle juice and relish smashed in his face. This was part of his challenge to get those runners who haven’t started fundraising yet to get their first donation by the end of the week. Those runners did come through for APLA and Coach JC, so he took one for the team. This is very significant as Coach JC loves pickles as much as I loved “TheHuman Centipede 3,” which is to say not at all. We’ve seen him struggle to eat one of those peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers in the past and it didn’t work out the way we hoped, so it was understandable that he came to this challenge with a lot of hesitation and anxiety. But never let it be said that he doesn’t give everything he has to support APLA. He hates pickles and yet he faces them head on.

Our 10 mile run took us out of Griffith Park and onto the streets of Burbank; the same streets I have run up and down several times before. As usual, I found myself trailing my fellow pace group runners despite my best efforts to keep up with them. Once they faded from my sight, the movie “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” started playing in my head. It’s a movie from 1962 which starred Tom Courtenay of “Billy Liar” fame as Colin Smith, a rebellious youth who is sent to a reformatory school after robbing a bakery. While there, he manages to gain a lot of positive attention thanks to his prowess as a long distance runner. The school’s Governor comes to believe that Colin’s running could be his salvation to a better life, and he begins to cultivate the young man’s talent so that he can compete in the school’s inaugural track meet against a rival school. The Governor wants to prove to everyone that he can turn these boys’ lives around to where they can be functioning members of society, but Colin eventually uses his love of running to show what he considers his ultimate act of freedom.

My dad gave me a VHS copy of this movie years ago, and it took me way too long to appreciate its ending (which I won’t reveal here) and what it really meant. As a result, I’ve been meaning to revisit it for a long time. While running up and down the streets of Burbank, I was reminded of Courtenay’s opening voiceover in which discusses how running is his family’s way of dealing with the world’s troubles as well as escaping from the police. But he also adds that the runner is always alone and cut off from spectators, left to deal with life on his own. I can certainly relate to that as running continually leaves me to deal with the craziness that goes on in my head as I am forced to deal with emotional scars from the past that I continue to relive and beat down on a regular basis. As much as I want to connect with others while running, there’s always something keeping me separate from the world around me.

Anyway, I didn’t have a map of the course on me so I just kept following the signs the Team to End AIDS coaches left out for us and made a left turn at a park we typically pass by. As I continued down the street, I started to wonder why I didn’t see my fellow pace group runners coming in the opposite direction. Surely they reached the turnaround point by now, I thought. Fortunately I had my Runkeeper app running on my phone, so once it read 5 miles I turned around and went back the way I came.

Now usually when something like this happens, I go into a fury over how big an idiot I am and start doing something along the lines of self-flagellation. But even though I went left when I should have gone straight, I knew that I was still going to get my full 10 miles in, so this run was in no way an unmitigated failure. It was salvageable, and realizing that made me feel good and not like some IQ challenged dummy.

Of course, once I got back to the T2EA stationed rest stops, everybody wondered where I had gone. Coach JC was on the verge of putting together a search team to keep me from running all the way to Van Nuys. Basically I told everyone that I had decided to take the scenic route. That seemed to be a reasonable excuse.

I had a whole pack of black cherry energy blocks which served to power me up when I needed a boost. Usually I take one every 45 minutes, but I found that was never enough. When I had two instead of one, I suddenly felt like Popeye after he ate a can of spinach. Yeah, I could take on Bluto… in a cartoon that is.

As expected, the temperature did rise to the 80’s but that did not take away from my determination to finish this run. A special thanks goes out to all the volunteers and the Boliver family not just for providing us with all the water and Gatorade and all the other treats a runner needs, but for keeping the water and Gatorade so wonderfully cold. The cooler the liquids are, the more refreshing they are. Having a cold drink while dealing with such unseasonably warm weather feels like a salvation of some kind, and it makes you feel grateful to be alive. Okay I might be pushing it a bit there, but you get what I mean.

While taking a shortcut on my way back to Griffith Park, I noticed a sign attached to a tree which said that the West Nile virus has been confirmed in this area. According to the CDC, this virus can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). It is spread by infected mosquitoes, so you can sure as hell bet that I will be investing in a lot of insect repellent for future runs. There’s no excuse for not being properly prepared. No mosquito is gonna take me down!

I did manage to cross the finish line and met with Coach JC who wanted to know how many miles I inadvertently added to my 10 mile run. According to my Runkeeper app, I ran almost 10.5 miles so I didn’t go too far off the reservation and still managed to go the distance even while getting lost.
For the most part I felt really good about this run, and I don’t just chalk that up to the energy blocks. I’m really starting to hit my stride and can feel all this training paying off in a lot of different ways. I just need to keep up with the maintenance runs during the week. I started to treat a number of activities like maintenance runs such as when I had to move my car which was parked several blocks away from my apartment or when I took a package to the post office to be mailed. Everything is a workout these days it seems.

Next week is Halloween which means we will be having a costume run. Hopefully I will find an affordable costume worth wearing. If not, I can always dress up in my Jason Voorhees costume or just tell everyone that I’m a homicidal maniac; they look like everybody else.

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