30 December 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Movie and musical themes keep running through my head that zero in on what could be seen as ironies or could be seen as a train running a little fast on a downhill grade. Picture the movie drama (the film has been made, I don’t recall the name, never saw it); he’s going too fast, will he make it to the valley safely? Or will there be a spectacular fireball, consuming countless extras and movie props, and of course our hero?

A simpler image is the end of the Blues Brothers movie: the demise of the Blues Mobile. Admittedly this low-brow flick still stands as a favorite; my tastes are not entirely cultured. What a vehicle! Cop tires, cop motor, cop suspension, and it pulled off amazing feats, but when it reached its limit, the end was sudden. Instant, violent disintegration. Everything fell off at once.

Notwithstanding the easy comparison to the finale of a bad day marathoning where only the wheels fall off, I sometimes wonder if I’m not pushing my body like the Blues Mobile, only to have everything fall off at once. Knees buckle, ankles snap, heart myocardially-infarcts, lungs implode, a gelatinous blob is left pulsating on the race course somewhere, best removed with liposuction equipment. OK, it’s not likely, but should it happen, man, what a way to go.

Am I pushing a bit hard? Well, the year closes with a list of notable events, most of which I didn’t foresee coming. Since I’d failed at covering two thousand miles in the previous years, I skipped that in favor of the odyssey of running every street in town. Perhaps I was too busy studying maps to recognize the long-term change in intensity that set in, and here at year’s end I’ve covered not two thousand but twenty-six hundred miles, averaging fifty a week. Beating my thought-to-be out-of-reach annual record from age seventeen. Surprise.

At the end of the Marlborough map coverage, along came, quite by accident, a streak of running every day that now stands at two hundred and twenty-five days and, winter-be-willing, offers a shot at that other seemingly untouchable youthful mark of three hundred seventy five days. Can’t say it’ll happen, but even being this far in, surprise.

After scraping the three hour mark at Boston and serving up a heat-slowed Buffalo, I could have reasonable expected my pre-surgery marathon PR was a memory. Along came Bay State. Surprise. And following on that, racing with Greater Boston. Surprise. In Seattle. Big surprise. In the Nationals. Absurd surprise.

All of which leads me back to the question: Is this a reasonable new reality, or a path to implosion, Blues Mobile or otherwise? Another musical theme kicking around the cranium is a far lesser known one: an old Harry Chapin tune called Mr. Tanner. No relation to Rocket John, this Mr. Tanner is an ordinary local Ohio guy blessed with a rich voice, who at the urging of this friends cranks it up a level and sings a concert in New York. The big time. Except he’s good, but not big time good, and he comes home chastised to nothingness by the critics and loses his will to share his talents publicly.

That tune certainly went through my head on my way to Seattle. But I didn’t come home in disgrace, and the body hasn’t imploded yet. And frankly, I don’t really care if I get beat up a bit on the bigger stage. I’m just glad to have the opportunity to be there.

So to the last theme, borrowed from Python: And now for something completely different. Last night I treated myself to a pair of spikes, or when said metal bits are removed, racing flats. (Actually, my cross country team treated me with their generous season-end gift certificate.) I haven’t owned a pair of these since high school. Slippers with weapons, as Keith at the running store called them. And tomorrow I’ll test them out, racing a 4 x 1600 meter relay on the indoor banked track at Boston University, the first time I’ve raced a mile since high school. It’s been over thirty years. I have no idea what I can do, but I’m eager to push the body and try to find out. I feel like a kid again! Granted, a kid with achy bones and cholesterol meds, but you get the idea.

The movie and musical themes can make you worry, but it’s up to you to push past them, ignore the pessimism, and continue to drive to new adventures. Aging doesn’t have to mean retracting from the abilities of youth if you don’t let it.

Come to think of it, all the Blues Brothers really needed was a good mechanic.

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