Thursday, July 26, 2012

I can outrun storms

The title of this post makes a bold claim: that I can outrun storms. Before last night, I wouldn't have believed it possible, either.

However, it's true. I set out blithely without a glance at the weather forecast; I already knew scattered storms had been predicted, so I figured there was no sense in wasting time and ambition by going to

What should've been my first sign of trouble was simply treated like a photo opportunity. To the east I saw:

To the west, the eventual direction of my run, I saw:
With nothing more ominous occurring, though, I continued on my route: about 1.5 miles south, then west on the Greenbelt Trail for about a mile. The goal was to do five miles total, which I very nearly did. (That comes later.)

Around mile two/2.25, as I passed a white-haired gentleman, he said something to me that sounded like he'd called me "pardner." No, what he'd said was: "That's thunder."

Just 25 more minutes of safety, and then it can rain as much as the crops around here need, I pleaded — well, pleaded is too strong a word. It was more of a playful bargain I'd offered, with nothing in return.

I reached the top of the hill that marked my turnaround spot at 2.4 miles. More thunder, this time audible. "Keep the pace up," I thought, slightly less facetious than I'd been a quarter-mile earlier.

Then, as the white-haired fellow and I crossed paths again, there was lightning. Every droplet of sweat that splashed down my body made me think the farmers' prayers had been answered instead of mine. After the third mile, this finally became true.

I took off my tank top, wrapping it around my iPhone, and decided to welcome the rain on this hot, muggy evening. This optimism lasted until the intensity ramped up. Squinting against the raindrops, blinking furiously like windshield wipers to see forward, emerging from the protective tree cover of the trail and onto the open sidewalks, I began putting my dad's advice (borrowed from James Bond) into practice: "Always have an escape plan."

Less than a mile away was a Walgreens. Worst-case scenario, I could seek shelter and either try to wait it out ... or make a phone call for help.

While I planned this out, though, the rain subsided. I plugged on, not wanting to tempt fate; even with walking across one intersection to catch my hill- and wind-stolen breath, I did 8:57 over this stretch. As I continued north, the sidewalks grew drier. Could I have ... ?

Not yet. Rain — steady but light and thunder-free — returned as I arrived at the Walgreens intersection. A driver even rolled his window down as I waited for traffic and asked whether I needed a ride. I declined, for many reasons, but mostly because I knew it was less than a mile to my complex. I can do this.

The final 0.8-mile stretch is an upward-rolling one, not exactly where you want a storm to catch up to you. I could feel the judgment emanating from the cars going by as I plowed on, steadily pushed east by wind gusts that stung my ankles with dust.

During the final tenths of a mile, flashes of lightning occasionally illuminated the flailing traffic signal poles. I let the wind shove me downhill and into the apartment complex parking lot as rain once again began to hammer the asphalt.

Safely indoors, I unwrapped my iPhone and hit "save run." I'd managed 4.9 miles in 44:04 minutes, good for an 8:59 average pace. Miles two, three and four each had been finished in less than 9 minutes; during the last 0.9 stretch, I'd kept a sub-8:00 pace. (Thanks, powerful gusts!)

And best of all, I was alive and unsinged, only slightly damper than normal after a Midwest summer run. My fears seemed so foolish as I sponged off — had I really considered phoning east-side friends and begging for help that I would never, ever, confess to my parents that I'd had to seek?

The cockiness of having escaped major trouble is sweet indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment