Run for Your Life


Yeah it’s still the same
Can’t you feel the pain
When the needle hits the vein
Ain’t nothing like the real thing

Yesterday, I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. At Vista Point, where you can actually see how ridiculously photogenic San Francisco can be, and how clever it was of Irving Morrow to insist on a red-orange bridge to stand out against the green hills and verdigris water — my headphones cued up a certain Gnarls Barkley song.

I smile knowingly when I hear this song on a run. Of course, runners love to repurpose any song mentioning the word “run,” even in passing, for motivational purposes at mile 11 or as the backbone of a blog post. Run (I’m a Natural Disaster), however, is not on my playlist because it has a run-friendly title, but because I am actually running from something, out there at Ocean Beach watching waves crash, out on the 500-mile Bay Trail where the sun always seems to be baking, even in the rain.

Cool breeze come on in
Sunshine come on down
These are the teardrops of the clown
Circus is coming to town
All I’m saying is sometimes I’m more scared of myself

I’m not always sure what I’m running from. Sometimes, it’s destiny of the most mundane kind: will I be the first woman in my direct maternal line to outrun high blood pressure?  Other days, there are invoices breathing down my back, and I have to get away someplace where Quickbooks cannot thrive. When I’m finally relieved from a day of relentless summer-vacation parenting, complete with three squares and, say, a Trader Joe’s trip, I know exactly what I’m running from: death by a thousand chores. But, when I overcome inertia to start moving at 5 mph on a perfectly clear spring day, in the best city in the world, while everyone is at school or work, why am I running?

Yeah I’m on the run
See where I’m coming from
When you see me coming run
Before you see what I’m running from
No time for question asking time is passing by

It’s lovely out there, lovely and wonderfully lonely, even when there are people on the path, even when they smile. At a certain point, organized thought gives up and goes wherever it goes to think up new terrors, and then the party really gets started. Voices enter the conversation, pointing out what I ought to be doing, or how much I sucked at the last thing I was supposed to be doing, but, far enough into my run, I just don’t have sufficient brain power to engage with them anymore. When I run, I get really dumb. I giggle at the truth of Cee-Lo’s words, and maybe think about being hungry, and if there is a Luna Bar in the glove compartment, and if it’s melted yet.

Either you run right now
Or you best get ready to die

I have to run. There’s something in me that needs to be pounded out, and I’m better for it. There’s something behind me — maybe a million little  somethings — that I need to scramble away from. I know it should just be a metaphor, but it’s not. Maybe that’s why, when I can, I prefer to run in a straight line, not a loop: every run, I get a little further away.