My Moment of Clarity

For those who may not know, Ohio is categorized as a humid continental climate region of the United States.  Winters here can range from pretty cool and mild to downright frigid and icy.  Summers here take the “dog days” to a new level and are typically hot and humid.  Precipitation is moderate year-round and it usually seems like it might rain at any given moment.  In fact, some parts of Ohio are actually home to a variety of subtropical fauna.  And severe weather?  Although we are not technically part of Tornado Alley, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye to the sky from May to September.  Where I live, it can be hard to stand outside and breathe at this time of year, let alone run outside and not shrivel up or get caught in a pop-up thunderstorm.
So the fact that I run outside in the middle of summer in Ohio makes me tough, right?  At least that was the only thought in my mind as I set out for a run on what appeared to be a perfectly hot and sunny day with only a hint of rain on the far Eastern horizon.  As I stepped out the front door, my five-year-old neighbor asked me what I was doing all decked out in my running gear – shoes, shorts, hydration belt, and Garmin.  I explained the function of each item for the tenth time and started off when she said, “Wait!  Don’t go…stay here!  Why do you have to run now?”  I told her it was for exercise and that I wanted to get back before dark.  She stared at me with a doubtful expression on her face for what seemed like more than a minute and said, “Well, I hope you make it.”  She had certainly never said that before.
That was my sign, I thought.  I should turn around and walk back into the house – chalking it up to a prophetic kid who somehow knew today was not the day to run.  But, I didn’t.  One foot in front of the other and I was down the sidewalk to the street and on my way to three miles of sweat.  I turned around and saw my neighbor still standing by my door, waving her little hand at me with a big frown on her face until she was out of my sight.  Just run, I thought of my age-old motivation – the faster you run, the faster you’re done!
Run I did.  All the way until mile 1.5 when seemingly from out of nowhere a massive black thunderhead blew overhead and dumped impressively cold rain on me and everyone else who happened to be outside at that moment.  People were sprinting indoors; dogs were barking franticly to be let in; children were screaming and scooping up toys.  There were no other runners in sight.  No big deal.  I always enjoy how running in the rain makes me feel cool and refreshed.
I do not, however, enjoy thunderstorms – running in them or otherwise.  I am downright terrified of storms as a matter of fact.  So, when the wind picked up and the thunder and lightening started, I got a little nervous.  Even so, it wasn’t until the tornado sirens went off that I had a moment of panic.  My heart started racing, my breath got stuck in my throat, my hands started shaking, and my knees felt like rubber.  I actually thought this is how I might die.
But, if you’re lucky, with every moment of panic comes a moment of clarity.  And I was lucky.  I was soaked to the bone and rain was streaking down my face making it so that I could barely see.  Every crack of thunder put a jump in my step that kept me moving faster than I thought possible.  The wind, at my back, shoved me forward with unnatural momentum.  I ran like I had never done before.  I was already out in it; why not make the best of it? 
I saw eyes peering out at me from inside garages as people watched the encroaching clouds.  A lady called to me from her porch, “Hey, you running!  Are you CRAZY?  I yelled back, without pausing, “PROBABLY!  Then I immediately thought, why I didn’t say something like, “No, just really dedicated,” or “No, I’m just really tough.”  It was then that I realized I was battling the odds, fighting the elements, pushing through the thick of things all in the name of what?  Running.  And to make myself better.  It was then that I realized if I was actually running during a tornado warning – me who hides at the mere mention of bad weather – running was more than just something to do.  It was something I had to do because it was a part of me and for that, I really was tougher. 
I made it home in just over 3 miles – my route didn’t shorten in spite of the storm.  I was freezing and drenched, but had the biggest smile on my face.  I stood on the porch, in the slowing rain.  “I conquered the storm,” I thought, “I am a runner, a real runner.”  I looked around for my neighbor, who of course, was nowhere to be seen to share in my triumph.
I saw her the next day though, my five-year-old neighbor, and she said as I was leaving for my run, “I hope you make it,” just like she has every day since then.  I smiled at her and said, “Thanks, I think I will.”  And she waves until I am out of sight.

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