Tag Archives: miles

“And Just Like The River, I Been A Runnin’ — Ever Since!”

[Continued from July 31, 2011]

But who knows just how long we’ve all been running.  I haven’t been watching the mile markers:  They’ll only make me psych myself out.

It’s all in mind, you see.  The game — is all in the mind.  The race, the run, the marathon.  So, I rein mine in:  I don’t judge other humans — and I don’t compete.

This sport — is in the very doing of it:  You against you.  And if you do it for the love of you — you’ll go farther, and longer.

This City — THE City — has taught me that.

Speaking of THE City:  We have now been unleashed into Her.  After warming up and hydrating us quite plenty in the park, the masterful, gracious hosts of my first half-marathon have opened the gates — and straight onto Haight we go.  I have been watching my breath until now, while running through the park:  It’s a resilience thing.  But here is where it skips, I must say.  I’m breathless:  This City — is a vision!

The locals have spilled out onto the streets once designed by someone with unreasonable imagination:  Families, youngsters, couples — of all shades, shapes, ages and sexes; teenagers in want of inspiration or curiosity; children with dreamy eyes, and dogs — with confused ones.  Funky descendants of hippies that have long ago migrated here:  They’re beautiful boys with long hair and girls with compassionate faces.

“…V to the izz-A!” Sean Carter starts hollering into my ear, from my running playlist.  “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8th Wonder of the World!”  Yep.  This City — THE City — deserves no less!

Lovers in various relationships have been watching us from each other’s embraces or from the opposite windows of their half of a hexagon rotundas.  A lonesome woman timidly smiles at me, from her second floor balcony; and in the midst of her sadness, I think:

“When was the last time she was found beautiful?”

“Beautiful!” I holler up to her, simultaneously with “H to the izz-O!”.

At every intersection, every traffic light, the San Francisco policemen and women remind me of volunteering Hells Angels; and they do one of two stances:  Either they root themselves through their black-leather-bound legs (they’ve got this!). Or they pace while swooshing their gloved hands through the air in the direction of the finish line.

But who knows just how long we’ve been running, and how much longer we’ve got left!  Who knows — and who the hell cares?!

A glorious family of six has taken over an island in the middle of a street — all blonde, tall, and boho-chic — and they have been extending their hands into the avalanche of runners crashing down the hill.  I haven’t greeted that gesture yet, from anyone:  It’s a resilience thing.  But the youngest of the family, standing at the very end of the island, like the broody teenager he is supposed to be, shakes his tousled surfer curls out of his face and studies me with his blue-gray eyes.

“Looks like Joseph — my future son,” flashes across my mind.

Joseph extends his hand, right in front of my womb — and I tap it.  His hand feels dry and callused, belonging to the young man that he is supposed to become.

A symphonic tune begins winding up and Bono comes in, screeching:  “At the moment of surrender, I folded to my knees.”  I tear up.

Soon, my baby-boy.  I shall see you very soon, back in this City:  THE City.

An older couple is jogging slowly.  I wait for a reasonable gap in between them and I pass:

“I’m right behind you,” I hear her say to her man.

“I’m not going anywhere!” he responds.

Who knows just how long we’ve all been running.  I haven’t been watching the mile markers:  It’s a resilience thing.

At every water station, I soak up the faces of the volunteers.  I lap ‘em up, actually, drink them all in; and regardless that “resilience thing” of mine, I make sure to thank them.  The very specific, very studious boy with dreadlocks who is sweeping the plastic cups from under our feet, the crunch of which has become my own mile marker:  He extends his free arm to salute us with a victory sign and doesn’t crack a smile.  This is no laughing matter here!  This is THE City:  United!

The Asian boy that has handed me water:  While I find my mouth busy with the sensation of it, I thank him with a kind tap over his heart.  He grins.  He’s wearing braces.

A brown girl gives me both of her cups, then pumps the air with her fist:  Power!

Here comes in Nina Simone, right on time and perfectly poignant, as always:  “Yeah!  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,”  My steps are liking her rhythm.  Take it away, you goddess!  And, oh, how she does! Alright ye!”  

I pick up the pace.

An aging small man is jogging calmly with an aging small dog trailing right behind.  They aren’t in any rush.  They’re just doing their thing.

A woman with some handicap affecting the evenness of her stride:  You do your thing, love!  You do your thing!  And don’t EVER let anyone treat you inconsequentially!

The two young men in nerdy knit hats are in the midst of a chill conversation:  Awesome!  I pass ‘em.

The two poster boys for what health looks like up in the Bay are strutting their surfer bodies along the Embarcadero:  Breathless!  I pass them too.

“It’s just the way the game is played!  It’s best — if you just wait your turn,” RiRi is right on top of me.  I think of my brother.  He calls me RaRa.

The gossip spreads:  The finish line is ever so close.  Very close, somewhere past the bridge.  My calves are feeling like they’ve taken over half of my body weight, in blood.

Still:  I pick up the pace.

Past the cowboy offering swings of vodka on the sideline.  Past the flamboyantly dancing chicken suit.  Past the gentleman jogging in a pink tutu.  Past the girl running with a pair of fairy wings on her back.

Past, past, past!

Past the wide-eyed boy looking up at his mother with complete worship.  (Joseph?)  Past the little girl running like a girl along her mother’s thigh.  Both are wearing matching t-shirts that say, “RUN LIKE A GIRL!”

And who knows just how long I’ve been running; but suddenly, there is some sort of a tilt — a bump on the road, a hill — and:  I see the blue banner of the finish line.  No longer do I feel half of my body weight in my calves, in blood.  Neither am I any longer aware of my playlist.

Here.  We.  Go.

I leap.  I fly.  I zip, in between.  I zoom.

Faces!  Faces!  Faces!  Screaming the name of their beloveds — or just screaming.  Beautiful faces!  Breathless City!  THE City.

Past!  Past!  Past the lingering jogger to my left!  Past the ambitious, athletic honey to my right.  This is it!  I am here!  In.  THE.  City.

I cross the line.

And although I haven’t been watching the mile markers (and I have yet to see my end time), all of this has been for the very doing of it and for the very love of this City — THE City!  My gratitude floods in.  Or rather, it has never really left me, 13.1 miles ago.

In the name of the sport, we’ve all been running for a very long time and committing our personal feats of courage:  It’s a human resilience thing.  And, yes!  It has been completely worth it!  And so has this City.

THE City.

Run, Lola! Run!

“I feel like I’m suddenly living in a body of an athlete,” I texted to a comrade the other day:  Someone who has witnessed my coming into my own from the last miserable stretch of my 20s into the chiller version of me, in my early 30s: cooler, confident, more comfortable in my skin.

“You are,” my comrade responded.  “You are an athlete.  You are a pugilist (pounding out pages) and a hurdler (watch her leap over unworthy douche bags in a single bound).”

(They are like that:  My people.  They are eloquent, empathetic and overall — on point.  And how they adore me!  How they worship!)

I’ve always been a runner.  Blame it on the nomadic predisposition inherited from a long-time-ago gypsy, but when struck by anxiety or edgy uncertainty, I prefer to pound my feet on whatever ground I’m calling “home,” at the time.  And I never need to go far:  I just peel on my running shoes — and I get going, zipping past the unknowing, the unaware or the undisciplined.  And when life has caused me some serious grief, I’ve been known to run for kilometers, as if running for my life.

It started back in my childhood — in my perpetually disheveled but always somehow magnificent Motha Russia that makes for one fascinating terrane to cover with one’s feet.  In the beginning of a school year, we once showed up to an early morning phys ed class only to find our gymnasium with a collapsed rooftop (so typical for my perpetually disheveled Motha Russia).  For that day — and for half a year to follow — we would be locked out of the facilities; until the bureaucracy of the city’s administration and the innate laziness of the building contractors would delay the repair no longer.

Our instructor — an aging Don Juan in the younger Jean Claude Van Damme physique (and that same buzz cut) — was not prepared for such a shift of circumstances that morning.  For the hormonal dry-humping of ropes and poles by my male classmates and the whining by the pretty girls who would flirt with him to sit out the class due to “that time of the month” (chronic, for some) — Don Juan was prepared for that.  But for thirty pairs of eyes, with dilated pupils from all the excitement in an anticipation of a cancelled class — nyet-nyet, for that he was not ready.

He lingered, that morning:

“Nooh…” he said.  (Russian for “Fuck me!” — depending on how you say it.)  He took off his hat, did the roll call, then lingered again.  Breathlessly, we waited for the verdict.

“Tell you what:  Today, we are running — OUTSIDE!”

He did his best to up-sell it to us, but the only way to stop the moaning and the complaining by the girls; and the sighing, and the spitting, and the swearing by the ballsier of boys — was to let us have it.  Which he did:  Don Juan barked, in the manner of someone with enough Army training to cover up his insecurities for the rest of his life.  He was the boss around here, no matter how ridiculous most of us found him to be.

“SHUT UP!  OUTSIDE!” — and he led the way to the school stadium that sat in the middle of a forest.  (Back in my perpetually disheveled Motha Russia, we’ve got plenty of those forests-thingies.  So, no one is particularly shocked when they find themselves in the midst of some mutilated ground, torn-through, ravaged, utterly misused — and typically disheveled.)

The morning was cold and wet, which caused more moaning, and more sighing, and swearing.  At the sound of Don Juan’s whistle, the boys tore to the front of the line-up and started running for their lives.  I?  I paced it.  Somehow, I knew better.  Not paired up with anyone, I calmly passed the group of daintily jogging popular girls who would eventually start walking, after the first 100 meters; then, flirt with Don Juan to sit the whole thing out.  I then caught up with the teenage beauties that took the exercise slightly more seriously — and passed them as well.

The shortest boy in my class was running alone, along the outer edge of the track, in his school uniform and his father’s rain boots.  Being from the country side didn’t make him popular; but being humiliatingly poor — had made him into a leper, among us.  The only dyke of my group kept me company for a while, and although we didn’t exchange any words, I felt we were definitely on the same page; or the same pace, at least.

I would catch up to the boys soon enough, and they wouldn’t as much as tease or patronize me, as my skinny ass squeezed in between.  A late bloomer, I had nothing on my body to entice them with; so, they would let me be, for a loop or two.

But they did get their feathers ruffled when I continued to pass them — 200 meters on top of another 200, and another!  And when most had left the course while faking sudden ailments to save face, I still found myself running.  Perhaps, I was running for my life; because that year, it had already struck me with the first serving of anxiety.  And Don Juan would have to holler to summon me and the only dyke of my group; and with a pride of someone who’d known it all along, he made examples of us, that day.

For the entire year, my late bloomer’s body would keep me running, on my own and in regional competitions.  And when finally, I started trying on the features of my own womanhood — it would take a slight adjustment in gravity, but I would continue to pound the ground I called “home,” at the time.

And when at the end of my second decade, I took off for a whole different continent — away from my perpetually disheveled Motha Russia — landing in a balmy Southern state I had only seen in American movies:  Every morning, I would peel on my running shoes — and I would get going.  Because in my mind, I was indeed running for my life — for a better one!  Oh, it would be an upgrade, fo’ sure — a choice that to this day, makes my father take off his hat to me and linger:

“Nooh…”