You Live for the Hard Days

You live for the hard days.

The twenty-milers.  The burpees.  The tempo runs.  The in-and-out 200s.  The negative splits.  The push-ups and the lunges and the 400s.  The blisters, the bruises, the scars.  The agony.

20 mile run

You live for this shit.

Finishing an already grueling workout, you arrive at the track with no shirt on, your feet throbbing and swollen like, well, a boner I guess.  The veins in your hands look like internet cables, carrying blood from your heart to your extremities like business-class broadband.

5G ain’t got shit on you.

When you cross the finish line, you are more aware than ever that it’s also the start line.  Your toes line up against the white stripe until you’re brave enough to lean forward, and with breaths that sound more like gasps, you pump faster and faster until you’re numb enough that you don’t feel it hurt anymore.

finish line

You can quit anytime you want, but you don’t.

The friction burn beneath your sports bra is red and raw, the color of 90/10 ground beef, not fatty enough to make a good burger.  It’s tender now, but that’s nothing compared to how much it’s going to hurt when you step into the shower.  You will scream audibly, in a gorgeous but blood-curdling soprano.  It will be the first time you admit you feel pain, that you’re human, that forces of nature and physics actually do work against you.

sports bra burn

Until then, nothing can stop you.

You make friends out of enemies, building a tenuous alliance with the hot-tempered sun and the paranoid schizophrenia of darkness.  You let the rain pelt down on you like an angry kid throwing marbles.  You stare down the wind even when it blinds you with malice, sand, and cold so bad your eyes fill with tears.

weather

But you don’t cry.

Because you can’t.  You’re not built for that.  You’re built to endure, to persevere, to conquer.  When you flex in the mirror, out of both curiosity and vanity, you see lines and angles found in the geometry of great structures — bridges and tunnels and skyscrapers and cathedrals.  And if you look hard enough, you see pieces of your weaker self fall away.

obliquesYou are all that remains.

You have been vaporized and distilled down to your purest state.  You are at your strongest concentration, with nothing more and nothing less than your essential elements.  You are sweat and muscle.  You are grace and power.

You are fucking hungry.

fuel

Your stomach takes you hostage and announces, in the form of a tremendous growl, that its demands are “one million handfuls of trail mix and a fucking turkey sandwich.”  You don’t usually negotiate with terrorists, but this guy seems reasonable.  You fuel him with lean protein and vegetables and whatever isn’t nailed to a table or filled with poison.  Cookies and milk, apples and peanut butter, spaghetti and meatballs. When you eat carbs, it’s like taking Communion.

Every day is a revival.

Your feet hit the pavement with the comforting rhythm and soothing melody of a church choir.  Breathing fast, your lungs open to sing their Hallelujah.  Some days, you speak in tongues, losing consciousness only to wake in a state of complete enlightenment.  The moment of gratification when you finish a workout and you’re so physically exhausted that you have to close your eyes.  That’s when the blinding pain becomes the blinding truth.

That’s when you see God.

And science: Darwinism, survival of the fittest, and the primal urge to exert, to compete, to win.  It’s in your biology.  You’re genetically wired to move, to resist, to fight, to run.  You don’t have a choice in the matter.  You must continue to pursue those moments of clarity that let you know why you’re alive.  For the rush, for the freedom, for the glory.

You live for the hard days.

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3 thoughts on “You Live for the Hard Days

  1. I could feel the run through your poignant and cogent words. I love the build-up and crescendo of,
    “You have been vaporized and distilled down to your purest state. You are at your strongest concentration, with nothing more and nothing less than your essential elements. You are sweat and muscle. You are grace and power.

    You are fucking hungry.”
    LVLOL (Laughed very loudly out loud)

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