A recent morning run triggered memories of high school track meets in the 1980s. I ran the distance races for the mighty Falcons, and we barely had time to get off the bus in those days before the 3200 meters race began. Nothing like racing eight laps around the track to get your afternoon going.
Our first meets of the season often took place in a tiny town called Corning, Arkansas, whose population sign answered, Yes, please. (Just kidding, more like three thousand.) Corning’s track sat in the middle of, well, nothing but empty space that provided no break from the strong March winds that seemed to be ever-present.
So it was always cold on those eight laps around the track. Coach Watson insisted that we remove our sweats and wear only our track uniform when we raced despite the weather conditions. Our uniform consisted of tiny maroon shorts that as best I recall were made out of cheap construction paper and a white mesh tank top with a maroon stripe. We provided our own goosebumps.
I remember Corning in particular and those killer eight laps because a quarter of the time was spent running directly into that terrible wind. Another quarter involved flying down the track with the wind at our back unable to breathe because all available oxygen had been snatched from our desperate gasps. The corners in between were the best shot of relief, although there the wind tended to blow you into the lanes you had not intended to run in.
So it was a good memory.
Well, it was good in the sense that it occurred to me that those races are pretty indicative of life in general. There are times when the wind is so at your back that you can hardly breathe. There are others when the wind is so in your face that you can hardly move. And there are still others when the wind blows you off course despite your best efforts. Life leaves you longing for some gentle rhythm yet wondering if you are accomplishing anything beyond running in circles.
My best advice is to move to Southern California where the weather is far more hospitable for running. But that doesn’t speak to the reality of life. For that, all I have learned is that you can expect all of the above and more. And that bracing for each shift in the winds is preferable to being surprised at each turn.