‘I can handle this, I am a pencil-necked-aerobic-death-machine,’ recalling a nomenclature ascribed me long ago when my 6’4″ frame weighed a mere 145 lbs.
‘Plus, I have my heart rate monitor to forewarn me of problems. I’ll be okay,’ I told myself in an attempt of self-persuasion.
I considered my route, fully known that if I chose incorrectly I could very well be entrapped in a web of tumbleweed .
‘Perhaps a cruise down Park Vista under the sweet overhanging trees? Yes, that is it.’
I wasn’t 30 seconds in until I realized the sun had set itself up at a wicked trajectory mocking any limb that sought to offer the solace of shade. The grass withered brown and bent having received a deadly kiss of napalm. At one minute, my mouth tongue began to stick to the roof of my mouth and my mind seriously voiced its doubts as to the success of this endeavor. But I am not faint of heart!
‘I am tougher than this. I am a Texan born and bred.’ (and possibly from this effort Texas dead my ever fading will reminded).
I begin to notice a few dead birds, scattered along the edges of the concrete trail. They had succumbed to the heat with no worries of any dog, vulture, or ant braving thermal meltdown to retrieve their sizzling carcasses. But what is this? One of them was not completely done for. His head lifted limply toward me and hoarsely whispered to me, ‘Save yourself man.’
‘Yes, I should.’
Wait, what was this…A talking bird? What is happening?
‘Fight through it, one foot in front of the other. Hands loose. Mind tight.’
When I ran competitively in my 20’s, one of my motivating mantras on a particularly hard run was, ‘If you want to beat the Kenyans, you must train like the Kenyans.’
I would utter this while imagining their lean, dark bodies wafting across the desert floor with sinewed calved from numerous jaunts over sand dunes. I, with youthful certainty, knew a brutal heat based training regime would enable me to beat them. But I am in my 20’s no longer. I am now in the long-toothed 40’s (very early albeit). I am smarter now, despite this exercise in stupidity, and now realize through age-gained-wisdom that the high temperatures in Kenya hover around an agreeable 85 degrees and there are few if any deserts there. For all those years, the Kenyans were probably laughing at me saying, ‘Look at the stupid American pummel himself in his training so much that he will never be able to match my mid-race surge.’ Now in this moment I faced decision. (1)Conjure up a new nemesis who lives in a brutal climate (Ethiopians anyone?), (2)convince myself that Kenyan meteorologists are highly ineffective thermometer readers, or (3)to demur my self-generated plot line of defeating Kipchoge Keino. The heat chose my fate . . . 3.
‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought, slowing as Keino kicks past me off my shoulder, dashing all hopes of a medal in my fictitious 5,000 meters.
Now running in the stark reality of a Texas August, A Marley-esque mirage of a man (Jacob, not Bob) shimmered off the pavement in front of me. I had trouble pinning an identification on this character until I was in conversing distance.
Who should it be but Al Gore, wrapped in chains made from recycled aerosol cans. Not knowing how to approach a globally green ghost, I assumed I should follow the traditional Dickens’ script:
‘Al,’ I said, imploringly. ‘Old Al Gore, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Al!’
‘I have none to give,’ the Ghost of Gore replied in a strangely Kyoto like accent.
‘Elven years dead from your failed candidacy,’ I mused. ‘And traveling all the time?!’
‘The whole time,’ said the Ghost. ‘No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.’
‘You travel fast?’ I said.
‘On the wings of all wind untapped as alternative fuel sources,’ replied the Ghost.
‘And what message do you have for me?’ I panted.
‘That a Republican is obviously going to win the next Presidential election based on the gruesome economic forecasts.’
‘And what means this?’ I asked.
‘Well, obviously this will lead to more grave climate change. It’s a scientific fact that any Republican elected raises surface temperatures by 3 degrees , ‘ hissed Al with an echo of Floridian venomous revenge.
‘And what should I do?’
‘Invest in thermal protection blankets for future resale and most definitely give up this vain attempt at exercise.’, answered Gore.
Realizing that I could not truly be encountering a Democratic presidential-type poltergeist, I pinched myself and awakened from my heat induced stupor only to realize I was talking to the rusted side post of a soccer goal. Granted the pole was similar in personality to Al Gore, but this was not overly comforting to me on my current mental state.
‘Fight on,’ I told myself, picking up my run for another quarter mile. But I soon succumbed to temptation, entering the doors of my neighborhood Wal-Mart which automatically welcomed me as the Walton family’s chilled, unhumid air beckoned me like a Greek Siren. The sweet waters of the dancing H20 fountains soon glistened on my parched lips, gulp after gulp of cool refreshment regenerating my soul. This was to be my oasis. A respite from this ridiculous endeavor.
And in that moment of cool sanity, I made a simple decision.
I gave myself permission to walk home.
And what a good decision it was.
To live to run another day. Probably about October.