Lilting Gazelles and Thundering Hippos

It’s been awhile since we’ve blogged. Clearly. Sorry. And, in addition, I’m not really going to cover the craziness of being back in the states. That topic is one of those that’s going to take a herculean effort I’m not quite up to yet. (Erin, go for it if you’re ready.)

Today, I woke up a little groggy, with some funny things going on in my belly, gurgling and all sorts of remnants from our last Thursday in Kansas City. Last night was a fun crew, mixing all the senators of various sorts. (And, for those of you who slept through your computer history course, I present to you, The Lisa) Pizza, beer, and some goodbyes all made for a great night.

I decided that what I needed to do was take a run. You may remember that we ran a half-marathon in Mendoza a couple months ago. We’ve been running pretty regularly, more or less as we can squeeze it into our schedules, which are surprisingly busy. So this run was nothing special, really. I decided to run a 3 mile loop, started off and immediately cramped up. I felt like there was monkey wrench bouncing around through my intestines. So… I slow down, let my body adjust to the idea of running. I kept talking to it, alternatively giving it words of encouragement, You can do it!, and apologies, I’m so sorry about last night. Eventually, it came around after the first half-mile. I started going at a nice pace, waving to the middle-aged dog walking wives of Brookside. I preened, nearly choking on my own ego as I watched them watching me. The thoughts that go through your head while running can be pretty ridiculous. Running without a shirt on a valid form of community service, really. We just normally don’t admit them out loud, and certainly not in a public forum like the internet. Oh well.

So, I hit the midway point and was pretty pleased with how things were going and, like the horse turning home, decide to kick it up a notch. Or two. Or as many as possible. Now, I’m just flying through the streets, passing 3 deep lines of baby strolling moms. But no longer am I a gazelle, gracefully lilting through an urban savannah. Now I’m more like a thundering hippo running to the muddy river. Get out of my way! If you’ve ever seen a hippo run, it’s pretty funny and I felt pretty ridiculous, panting the entire time. You start to wonder what you’re even doing out there.

Then the eye of the hurricane hit me, calmness all around, and all I could think about was how my nose and mouth were like a gigantic stovepipe going down to my lungs. I couldn’t believe the sheer quantity of air I could move! For those who have never picked up smoking and then quit, you’ll never understand the difference. For my body to be able to pull air like this was incredible. I don’t remember being in high school and having lungs like that because I never knew there was another option. I had the tar in my lungs pointed out to me on x-ray in Paris. I trained for a marathon in college and didn’t quit smoking because I didn’t think it was affecting me that much. The debilitating change had come on so slowly, I truly didn’t recognize it. So, I know what it’s like to run, exercise, hike, do whatever physical activity and have lungs that aren’t what they could be, but recognizing the difference was a different story.

So, in this moment of calm that lasted the last mile, I just ran at full bore and marveled at what my lungs were doing. I wasn’t thinking about how much my legs were screaming or how I might throw up from the sheer physical effort. I was literally imagining the vast quantities of air leaving my lungs and forming little cloud cubes so that I could count how many cubic feet of air I was using. This simple activity of sucking air in and forcing it out became a marvel of it’s own. It was as beautiful as any African sunset, any Guatemalan volcano, any Bolivian jungle or Argentine wine.

That runner’s euphoria they talk about? Yep. That’s it.