Okay, so we are now in Tucson. Which is my happy place. Which is where I’ve been dreaming of returning to for months. And you know what? I’m just not feeling the runs this year. Yeah, I’m happy to be out of the cold and the snow, happy to be in the sunshine, happy to be running in shorts and a tank again, and I’m especially happy to get off the damned treadmill (I did an 18-miler and 20-miler on the YMCA treadmill in Anchorage and let me tell you, those runs were more like chores than runs, more like cleaning the house for over three hours. Like cleaning the toilet for over three hours).
Since we arrived a week ago, I’ve racked up 50 miles and yes, it’s been great and fun and all of that, but I have yet to feel that happy runner’s high, that strange euphoria that normally grips me around mile five or six, that rush of chemicals that causes me to throw out my arms and exclaim: This is the best thing ever.
And here’s the kicker: I’m glad about this. I’m happy to not feel euphoric during my runs. I want to remain low-keyed and vaguely happy but not the oh-my-god-rush-of-joy happiness. Because I’m finishing up my novel and it’s about death and loss and how to come to terms with one’s past, and as I run through the desert sand, I’ve been thinking of my own life, and my own losses and how, even though I’ve been working on this book for almost three years, it’s just suddenly occurred to me that I’m writing about myself: That those losses are my losses, those griefs my griefs. I’ve been mourning through my own writing, which isn’t unusual but what is unusual is that I didn’t realize the full extent of this until now. It took my running through the desert on a sunny and warm day to understand my own mindset.
Which is why I love running. Which is why I adore running. I don’t care about becoming faster or placing at this or that race. I really don’t care about time that much at all. In fact, except to track distance, I rarely turn on my Garmin. Pace doesn’t interest me. What does interest me is the way running, and especially when you get up in the distance running, breaks down your defenses, kicks apart your ego, opens you up vulnerabilities until you find yourself peeling off all of your layers, one painful peel at a time.