You decide to go for five mile run. No mp3 player or pedometer or stop watch, just your shoes and your clothes.
An 8 minute mile pace is not fast but not slow either. That’s a 24 minute 5K, a time your doctor would appreciate. Five miles is a warm-up to a marathon runner, but to 99% of the population it’s difficult. Forty minutes of legs moving.
The first mile is easy. Your breathing doesn’t fall into a cadence yet and you just enjoy the breeze. It’s surprising, though, that there aren’t scores of other people running outside like you. It’s a nice day and these suburbs are dense. Maybe they have treadmills at home or are at the gym.
Your breathing starts to sync up to your steps. Blood flow is being diverted to your muscles. You’re tired now after two miles and would prefer to stop. This needless work is using up precious resources, your body says. You notice your first cramp.
You’re halfway through and this hill is really getting you. Your legs burn like bee stings and your breathing becomes more rapid. Stopping seems so nice, but you can’t stop—you will collapse before you stop. But you need to slow down. You’re doing a 10 minute mile now, but at least your legs are still moving. There’s a lamp post over there, just reach that and you can think about stopping. No, you can keep going; try for that bus stop.
Your body is weak, it wants you to stop. But your mind is strong. Trick your body with your mind. Your body must not know you will finish, or it will punish you with more cramps and more pain.
It’s just you out here. The cars fly by as you smell that plain suburban air. The sidewalk is covered with blades of cut grass and sticks and twigs from past storms. Does anyone actually walk on these things anymore? This landscape is sad, isolated; you can’t see any human beings outside, just people in moving pods, in a hurry to go somewhere, nowhere. This is better than the landscape at a gym at least, better than running next to someone who just put on floral perfume.
You feel like you can run a 10 minute mile all day. What a difference those two minutes are, from body breakdown to breath catching. Back to the 8 minute mile. You’re at mile four now, just one more to go. There is no one holding you hand. There are no words of encouragement or support. You are your encouragement and you are your support. No one else can do for your what you can’t do for yourself.
Nevermind. Another half mile and you’re back on the 10 minute mile. It’s just too hard and it hurts too much. Your arms are barely moving now, gimp-like, they just hang there. Your hands flop around, to conserve energy maybe. You see the end though, a yield sign you started at over thirty minutes ago. You can see the end of pain. Your body can see it too.
Your legs start moving much faster now, faster than it’s moved all day. Your body wants to end this. Your body, that son of a bitch, could have moved like this earlier, since maybe that lamp post. It lied to you.
You don’t feel right, but here’s the end. Welcome to yield. A few large stomps to slow down. There’s your heartbeat, in your head and in your neck, pounding. Walk it off and breathe, it’s over. You did it, on your own, and no one held your hand. Because no one will ever hold your hand, not even you.