I spent my entire weekend going from event to event.
It’s not that I’m that outgoing – I’m not – it’s just that everything happened at once, which is how things always seem to happen to me. I’m no victim of life, but my dad once told me I like to have 10 pounds of crap in a five-pound bag at all times, and he’s right. He’s always right.
I like it hot.
It started with the usual condensed training schedule I have, trying to cram in as many miles as I can when the kids are with their dad, rushing home from work and hoping to get even a little sunlight as I move through the city, stepping through unshoveled sidewalks and the sheets of glass that make up every intersection from now until April.
Six miles after work on Wednesday, again on Thursday, barely making it off the bike path with the waning light, humping it up Cliff Avenue as it grew darker and darker, heading east and home, a hot, hot shower and hands stiff with cold.
A friend stopped by late Thursday to lament how she was struggling to stay motivated. We did what runners do, which is get out a calendar and start plotting it out – an hour run here, two there, yoga and weights and hill work and moving ever closer to the starting line – and then the finish – as spring approaches.
And then when she asked me to join her for a bit on Friday morning, of course I said yes, even though the day game after the night game, as they say, is always a struggle. Ten hours after my evening run, I was out the door for a morning run. Then, as I sat with my coffee before going to work, I remembered I had told another friend we could run at noon. I packed a bag, and did another 5 miles over lunch. If you’re counting, that’s 16 miles in a day and a half, which isn’t that many miles, not really, but it made for a sleepy start to what I already knew would be a busy weekend.
A late Christmas party Friday night, and all the work it takes to be “on” all evening, smiling and talking and hoping someone will tell you if there’s lipstick on your teeth.
Saturday an easy 12 miles with Karen and Nancy and a bike path full of runners and dog-walkers trying to soak up the sunny, windless day. A trip downtown for coffee with another friend. Dinner with another couple, and street tacos made of jackfruit and plates of hummus and glasses of wine. Tickets to see Rich Show at the Orpheum – watching Patrick move through the crowd of everyone he knows, every emotion played out over his face and felt palm to palm as we sat there.
A long sleep.
A yoga class with my friend Janna, almost tipping over onto each other as we each tried to do a tricep kickback on one leg and not laugh out loud.
“My legs are tired,” I hissed. “And I was overserved last night. I need some water. Now.”
An artichoke and red lentil curry, made while putting groceries away.
“Quick, open this, if I stop stirring it will burn.”
A can of tomatoes handed back.
And then again to the Orpheum, to see Lilly Hiatt and then the Drive-By Truckers, running into most of the same people and a stack of others, turning around to see friends seated right behind us, coworkers in the lobby, old friends streaming out from the musical “Heathers” playing next door.
A drive home singing terrible radio songs very, very loudly.
Two full hours of hitting snooze.
Slamming back into Monday morning and meetings and pieces of paper everywhere and to-do lists that need to be updated. Burning up on re-entry, as I call it, when the kids come home after a few days away and we all find our sea legs again, tilting and rocking.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese and Oreos for one and a tantrum on the stairs for the other.
Not every weekend is like this, and I’d never survive if they were. The 20 minutes I fell asleep hard on the couch on Sunday while Patrick shoveled, after ignoring my half-hearted “do you need help,” were what I needed to make the final push back to the Orpheum, to haul myself to the gym and try, for the billionth time, to drag myself back into a body that has actual muscle tone instead of just hours of endurance.
I sat there on Saturday night and felt the music inside me, closed my eyes and listened as the soundtrack to someone else’s entire life played before him, as I found my spot on the album. On Sunday we both listened to songs we’d never heard before, tickets bought on the recommendations of all the people I ask when I need something new to download.
There’s something about the collective experience. It’s why we go. It’s hard, as a writer, to find that. Gertrude Stein said, “I write for myself and strangers,” and we all do, at some level. I do. If you think of it any other way, with a specific reader in mind, I worry that you would cater to that viewpoint, anticipate that reaction, and not let yourself just say it, whatever it is. That doesn’t mean you don’t think about your audience – you want people to feel.
There’s probably a reason so many writers run – another solitary activity. It’s meditative. Relentless. I wondered there, in the dark of the theater, about what I would write about this week. I wondered as my skin began to crawl and the dark dark climbed over me, which it does sometimes, and I had to turn and say, “I’m having a hard time right now,” and knowing it would be OK. “Do you want to go?” “Not yet.” “Just let me know. We can.”
When do you play to the live audience as a runner? In a race? Maybe, maybe in the big ones, Twin Cities with crowds three deep the entire way. Boston. There’s an appeal, the roar of noise in Wellsley pulling you forward.
We sat at dinner with friends and talked about our various pursuits. Their yoga and trips and how the struggle is there to find the time while working. They asked about long-distance running. It’s hard to explain it to people who don’t do it. It’s not the distance. It’s not the trail itself or the rocks and roots, the sand, the footing or weather.
It’s the solitude.
Running for yourself and strangers. Burning up on re-entry when you emerge from the woods and see the crowd.
The tiki lights at the finish. The aid station in the middle of the night.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear every other Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.