Thursday, December 20, 2012

At World's End

Rumor has it that the world is going to end tomorrow.  Saturday is going to be the most leisurely sleep-in of all time.  Although I do hope the pending apocalypse holds off until after morning masters.  I've got swim technique to work on and precious few swim workouts remaining before the Big Sleep-In.

Which got me thinking (a bit morbidly) about if the world were actually going to end, what I would classify as my best workout of all time, or would want to be my last workout of all time.

For me the answer is pretty easy because I even remember thinking "this is the best workout of my life" while still running.

It was either the winter of 2007 or the winter of 2009, with a 70/30 lean toward 2007.  No matter which year it actually was, I worked a 9 AM to "whenever Congress adjourned for the day" PM desk job which required tranquilizing myself before and after with physical activity so as to not do something drastic, like quit my job.  That day I left work at a reasonable hour (let's say 6:30 pm) to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (if it was 2007) or the Half-Blood Prince (f it was 2009) in IMAX at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  Both of these films have running times of 2.5+ hrs, and I remember I stepped out of the door of my gym to run at 10:30 pm.

I only know that I ran a smidge over 9 miles because the route I took was taken hundreds of times over the years I lived in DC.  To this day I don't remember - or care - how long that particular round took me or how fast I went.

Sometime during the movie it had started to snow and continued to do so as I ran - big, floaty flakes that flow along with the wind, if there is any.  That night there wasn't a whiff so the flakes took a leisurely route to the ground, interrupted only by the top of my head and shoulders and redirected only by the disturbance of my movement through space.  The night was that warm cold which distinguishes wind-less snow falls from more serious inclement weather, and as my footing's sake would have it, the pavement has been bare before the flakes began accumulating.

I ran west along the National Mall, south around the National Mint toward the Jefferson Monument, over the 14th Street bridge into Virginia, and north along the Potomac on the Mt. Vernon Trail, to the Memorial Bridge.  Instead of crossing back to DC, I slipped west along the main approach to Arlington National Cemetery, turning north on the path toward the Iwo Jima Memorial, and continued up and around metal men trying to right an American Flag, including the small, but dream-crushing hill that marks the last hundred yards of the Marine Corps Marathon.  I retraced my steps back to the Memorial Bridge, skirting north around Lincoln, and headed past the White House to reach the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol (and my gym) beyond. 

Anyone who knows this route can tell you nearly every step is within a National park.  Meant for pedestrians, these parks have no ambient, street or traffic lights, and at 10:30 pm on a weeknight, were completely deserted.  The few roads I followed or crossed were empty aside from a stray taxi because DC pretty much retreats to the bunker at the first flake.

With a cloudless sky, the city's light pollution escaped upward and was not reflected back to create the normal gray-ish dark.  I ran in a much truer dark, guided by the twinkling reflection of the skyline in the Potomac and the physical memory of repetition and routine.

The snow further insulated me from what little noise there was except my own breathing and steady, but whispering, footballs.  The wet hiss of tires on pavement and the Styrofoam squinching of tires on snow were deadened so even the random passing vehicle barely registered.  I just flowed along in my own cotton-lined bubble.

In other words, I ran undisturbed through the perfect winter night scene.  It was my best and I would be satisfied for it to be my last.

How about you?  What was your best?  Which would you want to be your last?

Happy End of the World!

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