The sky is a tangled mass of gray clouds, densely crowding an ink sky. In the distance, thunder purrs ominously, softly, intending full well to keep its impending promise of storm. The land is flat enough that in the distance, I can see where the landscape has grown even darker, periodic bursts illuminating the far off clouds from within. The air around me is still, the earth muted, no sounds rising from the asphalt, only the distant rumble of storm.
I decide to run anyway.
My head high, shoulders square, I take off, slowly at first, refusing to wince at the familiar pain in my left knee from cartilage long since damaged from overuse. I push until adrenaline numbs the pain, until I’m barely aware of my lower limbs moving at all, focusing only on the rhythm of my shoes on the wet concrete.
For some reason, my mind can’t seem to focus beyond the thoughts that push past my resolve. For a moment, I retreat into my head and immediately I feel my rhythm break. Before I can refocus myself, my ankle twists on a patch of uneven cement I hadn’t bothered to notice. I go down fast and hard, falling straight to my knees, sliding on my open palms a few feet. I pick myself up, ignoring the pain shooting through my limbs. My palms are bleeding badly. I clinch my fists and push off.
I gain speed and the world starts to pass me in a blur. Houses and cars and shrubbery are but colors in my peripheral, eyes trained on nothing in particular ahead. I concentrate solely on the strike of my foot on the ground, landing on the heel, rolling through the foot, pushing off with the ball and the toes to propel me forward. I keep my knees high, my back straight, running with no particular destination in mind.
The skies open up and it starts to pour. Intellectually reasoning that it might not be the safest thing to run in a storm in the middle of hurricane season, I contemplate turning back. But only for a second. I am still pushing forward, being rushed onward by some invisible force more powerful than reason. I hang my head low, round my shoulders to brace myself from the torrents of rain beating down on me. I push harder.
By now my chest is on fire and the muscles in my legs feel like they’ve been cut open and someone poured salt into them. But I still don’t stop. I whip in and out of traffic, past trees, over holes in the street, dodging people and rocks and anything else that might seek to trip me up or otherwise hinder me. I’m not going FAST enough. I push myself a little bit more. I am racing the thunder, the lightening, and refusing to be the one that dies down first.
When I reach the field, my entire body has gone numb and I’m shivering. Rivets of rain fall into my eyes but I refuse to break my stride to even wipe them away. I race across the grass into the end zone. I reach the 10 yard line, and reach down and slap the white line marker hard enough to make the injuries on my hands sting. Back to the end zone. Then to the 20, the 30, the 40, at each line leaning down to hit the paint, sprinting back to the end zone as hard and as fast as I can. Between sets, I don’t stop, don’t take the requisite breather between sprinting the length of the field and starting all over. With each set I taunt myself; I bet you can’t do another set, this time faster.
After many rounds, the pain has bloomed fresh in my legs, even my lower back burning from the effort, but I still refuse to stop. Somewhere between the 40 and 50, my knee gives out on me. I go down hard, this time flat on my face. This time I stay down.
I roll over on my back, my eyes open wide, struggling to breathe under the downpour of water, looking up at the sky, now a dangerous expanse of black. I lay there silent and still while the sky cries, and I let myself feel the earth underneath me, open myself up to wherever my mind may lead me. I am completely vulnerable to the elements and I can only hope if I lay there long enough, the storm can wash clean all of the places I cannot reach.