The keys clink together as I slip them back into the pocket of my overcoat. I have just gotten back from work, and it’s about 7:45 p.m. I need dinner, ideally beer, and then I want to relax.
I am also starting to feel like the sidewalks are clear enough for a run. I quickly check the weather report, see that it’s going to be about the same temperature now as it will be tomorrow morning before work. I hoped that would solve my problem. It didn’t. My stomach growls, and I feel slightly faint. I think food is going to be in my immediate future. Leftovers, penne pasta and a pasta sauce I made from random ingredients in the fridge, make up my meal. I devour it. It’s not something I need to savor, I’ve had it for nearly a week now.
8:15 p.m. rolls around. My roommate is making dinner, and I’m giving in to a stupid notion. I am going to go running. I need to get back on that horse before it bolts. I strap on my shoes, my TuneBelt, and pull a long-sleeved shirt over my head. I also need to make a trip to the Whole Foods down the street for quarters, so I can do laundry, but I don’t expect I’ll run far enough to make it back there before I give up. I didn’t get that far when I ran last time.
Almost as soon as I round the corner onto Comm Ave, I regret it. The owners of the empty lot at the end of the road have clearly not looked at it since the last snow. The sidewalks are caked in a thick, white sheet of ice. The kind that is actually a fraction of an inch above the ground, and will crack when someone steps on it hard enough, but it’s treacherous until then. I step out into the road, running inside the carriage lane along the side of the road.
My next regret hits at the bottom of the hill. Gloves I have on, my head and ears are protected by both hat and headphones, and my sleeves are keeping my arms warm enough, but I could have done with a second pair of socks.
Despite that, I am pleased with the time I am making down the hill. I feel like I am running naturally, almost like I am doing it professionally. This is the way running should be, my knees up, my body getting a few moments in the air before toes hit the ground and I spring forward for another stride.
Then I hit the uphill, and I remember that I am not a marathon man. I slow rapidly.
As I pass some of the houses who have been lax in clearing their sidewalks in the past–although the sun’s persistent beat on the street seems to have covered for their laziness today–something clicks in my head, and I come up with a solution to the dilemma of spitting.
On the one hand, I feel strongly that spitting is disgusting, not worthy of police society. On the other, when you are running, especially in the cold, as I’ve found, you get a backup of some kind of phlegm in the back of the throat. It can get in the way of your breathing, and make you look even more attractive than usual. So, it’s an exception I have to make, and society has to suffer.
Except now, I can be a vigilante. It becomes not only an efficiency thing, but a way to punish those who have not cleared their sidewalks, those whose laziness poses not only a risk to runners, but to all pedestrians. Their houses deserve it, nay, they asked for it. I am the Spitting Runner, the defender of those on two feet. If you want your yard spit-free, then you’d best head out there with the rock salt. It’s like a bed time story, the Boogieman, only the one you tell if you want your children to grow up to be considerate homeowners.
Or perhaps I need some more sleep.
Either way, as I pass through Cleveland Circle, the final evidence that I made a bad call starts to hit. My stomach churns and tenses. I am starting to get a stomach cramp. This is what my mother had warned me about swimming after eating.
I’m determined, though, I am going to push through, at least to the end of the mission. That’s almost a half-hour running. I can make that. Based on the tone of the story arc playing in Zombies, Run, I am probably one or two vignettes away.
Another sheet of ice, this one avoidable, and then I am two blocks away from Whole Foods. I curse myself for not bringing my debit card, my final mistake. But, despite that, the mission ends and I come to a walk. I follow two slow, old Russian women for about a block before turning onto my street.
I made it nearly as far as I did at the end of my last real run; the one before two weeks of snow and cold–both the temperate and the viral kind.
It isn’t until I am under the awning of my building that I realize I left my keys upstairs. I pull out my phone and call my roommate.
“Hello?” She answers, fortunately, after a few rings.
“Guess who forgot his keys!”
I was in no place to argue. “Could you buzz me in?”
The buzzer sounds, I say “Thanks!” and hang up as I mount the stairs.
Despite the few accidents, I am feeling pretty good about how my run went down.
Shirt of the Day: “I’m Sorry, Glenn. But the Only Beck I listen to has two turntables and a microphone.”
(I’m retiring the weird pickup. They got less and less weird, so it’s just not exciting anymore.)