Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Long Way for Three Miles

The sun had started to go down but the volume of traffic had not. I came to a slow trot before a full stop at the light that marked one mile. The air had a familiar chill to it even though it had been unseasonably warm the past few weeks. I couldn’t help but notice that I normally wrapped up my runs when the sky glowed orange like this from the disappearing sun, but this time I was only just beginning.

I went through my normal interval warm up: some dynamic stretching and drills, only suddenly self-conscious as the light turned from green, to yellow, and finally red. There were some odd glances, some pointing, and some not so discreet smiles. I’m sure the short-shorts and singlet didn’t help. I suddenly missed the safety of the track where the leg swings and butt kicks don’t raise an eyebrow. I cursed the local high schools as I did B-skips and realized just how ridiculous B-skips look to the non-runner.

And then, as always after all the warming up, there was only one thing left to do: the workout. I clicked my watch and took off against traffic hitting 5:30 pace as the cars zoomed by…but that’s not how it was supposed to go.

You see, an hour and fifteen minutes before, I’d thrown my bag and water bottle into the car and set off for my local track, a private school just down the road plastered with “No Trespassing” signs. In the past, I’ve operated by the “look like you belong” strategy, whether that means as a high school student or teacher. Either way, it’s served me well. I pulled in to the parking lot and replayed the workout in my head: 400m-800m-1200m-1200m-800m-400m all at around 10K pace with the back end of the ladder faster than the front end.

I walked through the crowd of baseball fans, careful not to make eye contact with anyone. I did the same walking by the tennis courts and the lacrosse field and finally I came to the track. Occupied. Hurdlers. *gasp!* How dare they! I thought. I did an about face and walked back to the car and decided which public high school to drive to in the paralyzing suburban D.C. traffic.

I settled on one I thought would make for an easy “commute home.” I pulled in and drove around to the back, rolling by to scope things out. Girls lacrosse and track practice. Curses! Don’t these kids have homework?

Frustrated, I pulled out of the lot and started heading back toward my house, trying to figure out where I could find a relatively flat stretch of road to run intervals on. In my haze, I drove right by my exit. After I laced together a string of profanity, I hopped on the highway and went to the other track. When I pulled in, not only were there games going on, but smoke poured from a grill and a girl sat behind a desk selling tickets.

More profanity.

When I finally arrived back at my house, 75 minutes had gone by since I first set out. It didn’t escape me that it took longer to actually start the workout than it would have to complete the damn thing. I flirted with skipping it altogether but knew I’d spend the rest of the night and probably most of the next day in self-loathing.

So, that’s how I found myself on the flattest part of West Ox Road I could find. Over the course of a .6 mile stretch, I ran up and back and up and back with the beeps of my watch signaling another interval completed until finally it was time to make the one mile cool down back home.

It was a long way to go for just three miles of intervals.

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