Now, in the
|just stick with me, House.|
By the last lap, I was breathing hard, and I would have said I was at capacity. I was pretty sure I'd done a good job of negative splitting, and if I finished out at my new, faster pace I'd be really proud of having gotten the job done. It was hot, I tend to the melancholic, I've had a lot of (at least semi-)failures recently. I was impressed that she'd gotten me to pick it up at all, let alone sustain it for two laps. But as we rounded the corner, she called two other people to come and run with us.
|These are them. Just kidding.|
It hardly needs to be said that all three of these people are faster than me (because everyone there is). I wanted to live up to it. I wanted to stay strong and happy and enjoy it since I don't often get to run *with* anyone, just near them as they whiz by. (Not bitter. Just sayin!) So with the addition of their energy and my gratitude at being "picked" in this way, the stage was set for a triumphant last lap.
The only problem was, I was spent. I'd been running beyond where I thought I should be, where I planned to go, and I was already way beyond any breathing and heart rate that felt sustainable. Like I said, I was looking forward to just keeping my pace to the end; if you'd asked about increasing it, I'd have said "I literally can't."
Except, they didn't ask.
With all three of them throwing out gleeful tidbits- "You're doing great! You look strong! Good form! The end is right up there!"- it was harder to hear the scream of protest in my head, just a little bit harder to keep track of my worries about how I was doing internally...and, unbelievably, I kicked it up just a little bit. With every step and every screaming breath I still saw myself over and over dropping back, giving up, slowing down to where I could finally breathe again--but I guess I was too distracted to actually *do* it.
I kept going. Until that last little stretch, the last 100 meters when unexpectedly my impromptu coach suddenly said "Run it out! Don't stop! Give it everything you have, sprint to the finish!!" and for some unknown reason, my body listened to her.
|This is probably how actual runners feel.|
I can tell you, my mind was not on board.
How I found time to have so many thoughts in 1/16 of a mile I don't know, but there were an astounding number of them. Chief and loudest was "I CAN'T DO THIS!!!" followed by "OMG listen to my BREATHING" and "MAYDAY MAYDAY!" My breath was literally screaming in and out of my lungs; I think I might have started to have that panic-attack reaction where your lungs close in. I vividly recalled, over and over, a story a friend once told me of her brother's mother-in-law dropping dead of a heart attack on one of her routine jogs, in only her 40s or 50s; of course that brought with it a horror-movie loop of exploding-heart imagery I just couldn't resist. I became convinced I was about to throw up. I couldn't see. Over the chorus of frantic mental "NOO NOO NOOOOO" I don't know how I even heard my coach yelling "great form!", but when I did I thought, "why are you talking about form, can't you see I'm about to DIE?!"
|Shut up, House. Just shut up.|
What felt important was that I'd just gone to the edge of what I know- and then stepped off.
I'm sure what everyone saw was a tired (cranky?) girl with a red face wheezing (shuffling) through a recovery lap. I know from asking that "does anyone else ever feel like they really might die?" was kind of a routine question, as was the answer ("yeah, of course!"). And the assurance that no one actually does die, no one has died ("yet!" I thought) on my coach's watch came with a slightly incredulous 'duh' kind of air that I went along with, like that didn't really need to be said. But for me, it did. In those few seconds of panic and being beyond what I knew, I really wasn't sure. If I'd had room for calculations I could have told you it was ridiculously improbable that I would die, but I hadn't had room and what eclipsed everything else for those few moments was that I might.
|I know. You don't have to say it.|
Like I said, it's a mundane place to confront your mortality.
All of this could have gone right by me if I were less prone to dramatics; nothing incredible (certainly not judging by my times!) happened to justify tears in the car on the way home or this long, rambling, ridiculously introspective post a day later. But I am who I am, and it mattered to me. Immensely. I'm so grateful to have had this experience and the realizations that came on its heels...and super grateful to my impromptu cheerleader-turned-teacher, because without her insistence I never would have gone to that place. I didn't even know that place was there. It was just a moment of surrender, maybe ten seconds of handing over the reins and trusting that someone else was in control, but those few seconds of going over the edge of my own certainty taught me more than years of strolling right up to it. Camping out next to it.
I thought the usual things, too, like oh my gosh if I really could die like that then I could die any time any way and life is precious so don't waste it...but somehow this doesn't impress me as much. That you can be, not "out of control", but beyond your own control...*that* is exciting. There really is something to all this "letting go" stuff we're always going on about, I guess...
Anyway. After I calmed down, showered, worked, went about my day doing whatever it was that I did, the experience paid me one more big dividend-
I woke myself in the night, laughing. It. Feels. Awesome.
I guess that's a place I'm going to have to go more often.
And *that*, yes, is really scary.