What's more terrifying--My deteriorating running times or Suburbia?
Parkwood. A street straight out of a Generica postcard. Could be Waynesboro, Virginia, or Normal, Illinois. You can pick the color of your house as long as it is taupe, olive, or persimmon. Everyone is allowed the same white plastic picket fence, but don’t you dare install a rain barrel. The HOA requires an Audi SUV adorn your driveway, and Freddy Krueger waits for the children to remember! Suburbia--My fucking nightmare.
Though I would never choose to live in a neighborhood like this myself, it does provide a safe space to run. Wide smooth pavement, the only traffic is from Nancy next door, and ample street lighting to scare away the gremlins.
The air is crisp and autumn sharp in my nose. The slight moldy stench of the fallen leaves sticks to the back of my throat. It elicits a phlegm-filled smokers cough which resonates through the trees frightening the squirrels out of their branches. The old stone bridge appears around the bend signaling an upturn in my pace. A quick left over the mossy tunnel and the interval begins. The first few minutes are wildly invigorating—legs turning over at a rate I haven’t felt in years, gliding smoothly over the asphalt, flying.
Unexpectedly everything changes. The thick slime in the back of my throat begins rattling with every inhale. My breath is shallow, coming and going rapidly, like my windpipe is closing down on itself. I keep pushing, almost blindly, forcing the legs to move forward, turning over and over. I’m gurgling now. Struggling with ragged breaths. I instinctively bring my hand my neck to make sure it hasn’t been slit open, because I sound like Drew Barrymore after her throat was slashed in her front yard in the opening scene of Scream.
When my Garmin beeps to offer me sweet relief, I flash the watch face eye level. The digital print reads: Mile 3, 8:34. My body wants to burst out of its skin, every millimeter of me so electrified I want to rip my own chest open, tear my legs off with my hands, to make the hurt stop. I want to die, but that passes within a few moments, but they are delirious, excruciating seconds. Once the feeling subsides, I’m stuck between elation and disappointment.
In 2014 I ran a 6:58 mile during a 4-mile repeat workout. The other miles were roughly 7:03, give or take a few seconds. I was training hard for my 2nd half marathon, the first I ran in 1:52:25 at an 8:35 pace, and I had already PR’d a 5K with a 7:28 pace. The last time I trained to run consistently was winter 2015-16 and even then I was a bit more focused on the bike. So in the fall of 2019 should I really be surprised that my strenuous untrained mile effort came in a full 90 seconds slower than my best ever? Surprised no. Disappointed yes.
My half marathon days are behind me, but I still have a crazy dream of finishing a 5K in under 22 minutes. My fastest is 23:09 on a twisty, curvy, hilly course in Cuba, Missouri, during a cool October day. I'm no longer upset by where I am in my running fitness--I'm driven. I am where I am, and it is just a launching point. I’ve set the destination, I know the directions to get there, and I also know that it is miles and miles away. It might take a solid 2 years to get there. I’m going to have to fun, chase away a few monsters, run through Suburban Hell without stopping, and enjoy the bloody twists and turns along the way.
Happy Cold Moon, everyone.