The forecast of extreme heat and high humidity led my long-time jogging partner to beg off on our planned four-miler. External conditions like the weather have rarely been the determinant of my going out to jog. In my thirty-three years of self-imposed aerobic torture, the heat has stopped me just twice, and once when morning temperatures dipped below zero, I did demur.
What has always given me pause with jogging is how difficult I find it to be. From the beginning back in 1977, it has been more often that not, an excruciating discipline for me to maintain. I have kept hoping it would get easier. It never has. Yesterday morning things were particularly bad.
To beat the forecasted ninety-plus temperatures, I did get out early. At the path around an office park lake where I go when I run without a partner, a few people, mostly geezers like me, were walking their three-quarter-mile laps. After some perfunctory stretching; I’ll do anything to delay the onset of the anticipated discomforts to come, I willed myself to begin running. It was awful. My body went into immediate rebellion. My joints, my leg muscles, my very being began signaling that I should not be doing this. How can persisting in anything that feels this bad possibly be good for me?
I promised myself that if I could complete this one lap, eight or so long minutes of red zone discomfort, I would reward myself by stopping and walking the second lap. As I approached that longed-for point, I found myself wondering if there was any way I could actually continue jogging. Things had not improved much, if at all, but something told me I might be able to keep running just a little further. I struck the usual bargain with myself, I would carry on until I could not.
Toward the end of my second lap, it began to rain. I was saved. I had an honorable out. Even dumb animals know enough to get in out of the rain. As I jogged toward my car, the rain got heavier and I realized that it felt wonderful on my overheated body. What the hell! I threw my iPod and my wet T-shirt into the car, and went back out on the path to try and continue my laps. It never did get any easier but running bare-chested in a drenching summer rain put a magical gloss on the sense of being alive, of being outside, alone on a July morning and of letting the cool rain pour on down upon me. It took another two full laps of hard going to complete my allotted forty minutes. It was finally over. I had done it, and I knew contrary to common sense, it had been an experience I would not have wanted to have missed.