Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lancaster County

Friday morning, as I packed up my things for my overnight trip out to Lancaster I was extra sure to throw in sneakers and running shorts. It was that little something that set us apart. Us Runners. The fact that no matter what you throw in your Asics and your vasaline becuase the next day at 8am you bet your ass you're going to wake up and hit the road. At the bar after two plates of "irish nachos" and a few glasses of wine Larry and I began discussing our plans.
"Eight at Eight" he said to me, and it became our mantra through out the night. Still early in the night the idea that we were going to be running in less that twelve hours was thrilling. It was exciting, it meant we were determined and dedicated. At least larry was, I'm not sure if I was. As the hours fell into early morning the idea that I would be able to even move at eight in the morning was sounding absolutly ludacris and at four am when I was holed up in the back of an all night greek eatery text messages reading "I feel like i'm going to die" and "Screw running" flew out of my phone. I wanted nothing more than to feel my body laying down in a bed. I passed out that night unsure of what would happen in the next few hours and before I knew it it was 7:30 by the hotel clock by my bed. This turned out to be 7:45 actual time and before I could change my mind I texted
"I'm awake, lets do this shit" followed by "should I a) start getting ready or b) go back to sleep" But i didn't have to wait for an answer. I was already out of bed, half dressed and brushing my teeth when i got back the answer
"Meet me in the hall in ten"
I had no idea if this was going to feel good or bad. If I would be able to get through eight miles or two. I had no idea where we were, or where we were going. I just knew that when it was all done I would feel strong and that was all that mattered. I waited by the elevators for what felt like hours, realising I didn't even know where in the hallway larry would be emerging from so I was surprised when he finally showed up.
"Take forever" I said dryly. Not surprised to find my voice barley a wisper, tired from the night before "Let's do this shit"
In the elevator and walking through the lobby I felt an odd sense of pride mixed in with my pure exaustion. It was a completly dreary Saturday morning and it was as if the whole city was sleeping as we circled blocks and finally made our way out of civilization. We ran along at a pretty steady pace for the night we had just woken up from. I had only had two glasses of wine and two beers, Larry saying he had lost count after eight. What amazed me the most was how I was capeable of running at all. Early in my training last summer I would have never attempted a Saturday run with out at least a decent dinner, ten hours of sleep, and some kind of breakfast. I was afraid I was slowly becoming Larry, my body adjusting to less and less food before embarking on a run. Being full made me feel ridiculously sluggish
The morning was encased in a calm fog. The farther out we ran, the more hills it seemed there were. I began cursing with every uphill step. And then at the top, knowing that the downhill that was currently bringing me a wave of reliefe would on the way back be yet another interval of torment, I would begin cursing again.
I have no bearings on distance and that was ok by me. I took each hill as it came at me, as if it was the last one I would run. I felt the burning pain in my thighs and forced them to push harder. Just push through the pain becuase its not like you have any other choice.

On the way back we come upon this folded up broken treadmill sitting on the edge of an empty field and suddenly I get this ridiculous idea in my head
"Wouldn't it be funny" I ask, " If you had a treadmill just in the middle of an open field, and you were essentially running in place in the middle of an empty field?" In my mind I pictured a morning much like this one. Grey. Not really see-your-breath-cold, but not weather you would want to stand outside in shorts in. For that blurred out the edges of the field, and in the middle a huge industrial treadmill and a lone runner pushing on for infinity.
"sounds like a good idea for instalment art" Larry said, commenting on my vision."Not really something you're going to make any money on, but perhaps something I might agree to be a part of"
And then, just as at so many other points in that morning's run, before he had finished his thoughts I was on to another topic.
"So could I take pictures of you" I ask out of what seems like nowhere, unless you understood the complex web that is the thoughts inside my head "I mean running pictures" And although I had been contelmplating such a thing for quite some time now as soon as I heard myself say the words they sounded ridiculous.
"...Up on belmont, or maybe up by the war memorial, you know by the wispering wall?" I pictured one of our late summer runs where the sun would just be setting as we crested to the top of lansdowne ave and made our way between the massive marble structures. The sun, I would have to go up and note the direction of the sun, I would have to do so much planning. Clearly larry had also given this a lot of thought.
"I was thinking action shots actually." Thinking about the track at Penn and the one day I had managed to knock out some sprints before calling it quits. The harsh sunlight, the pain of the heat comming up off the ground and into my shoes. The harsh contrast of the shadows. A little running oasis in the middle of the city surrounded by its massive stone walls and bleachers.
"Jenna did something like that once" Larry mentioned, and I realised I was stumbling across well covered territory. So what could I bring to the shot that no one else could. What could my experience and interpritaion of running and all that comes with it do for the art.
My thoughts were quickly interupted by the sole thought of making it to the top of yet another hill, this time thankfully it would be the last. When we hit the top of the hill I felt nothing short of increaible and when we came within sight of the hotel I felt even better. Of course that was followed by stopping and the overwhelming feeling of slamming on the breaks. My stomach churned and then settled.
I felt more pride walking into the hotel lobby than I had walking out. I was of course a disgusting ball of everything an eight mile run in the rain brings. Mud, sweat, wet with rain, grass, leaves, and city air. But for some reason pushing through something like a hungover saturday morning run makes you feel more clean, more pure than an hour long saturday morning shower. As if all that sweating was releasing my body of everything bad it had stored up the previous night. As the rest of our crew tumbled from their hotel rooms into the hallway to meet for breakfast later that morning I almost felt guilty for standing there in my shorts and sneakers, a tiny acomplished grin spreading over my face.
Yea, I'd say I was legit.