Over the course of a few years, Nelson watched himself start to resemble his father. His belly expanded, his pants grew wider, and he could no longer pretend that he was an athlete.
Then one night he looked down at a number on the scale that he never wanted to see again. He thought about where his dad was. His dad had open heart surgery to bypass near-blockages in five places, and his dad was diagnosed with diabetes. His dad had to measure his blood sugar five-times a day and take insulin injections to his belly. Nelson thought, not me.
So he started reading about nutrition, and he started running regularly. And then he started reading about training to run faster.
Nelson got serious about running, and he started to take life pretty seriously, too.
Now, running had passed the point at which it was providing any additional health benefits. Running was his hobby, a pass-time. Now, he ran because his body held many secrets. And the only way to find the secrets was to push his body out of its comfort zone and into a trance.
It was not torture; it was entering a thin place. Like Kramer sliced the ham so thin that the flavor had no place to hide, Nelson sliced time so thin that there was nowhere to be but in his body (this place) in the present (this time). There was nowhere else for the here-now to be. There was nothing for his mind to think about than one foot in front of the other, gliding over the road and sidewalks, watching for sticks and stones, measuring (counting) out his breathing, and catching himself as he fell, trying to fly. It was a mystical, existential place where his body would tell the truth and his mind would hear it, taste it, heed it.
Nelson ran because he had to know those secrets. He ran because he must. He couldn’t let the truth (those secrets) rest.
Nelson ran for the runner’s high: the endorphins and a sense of being done with something.
But he knew what he was doing was not valuable, not fungible, not transferable, not capable of being turned into an income stream. He was a mystic. He took the saying that “computers could do many things that people couldn’t, but most of those things weren’t worth doing;” and he told himself, “many people haven’t learned the lessons about themselves that I have, but most of these lessons aren’t worth knowing.”
Nelson knew that he could run a 1:30 half-marathon. That’s thirteen point one miles at 6:52 per mile. He knew that after forty-minutes his body would start using the fuel he had drunk at the beginning of the run, that one tablespoon of Folgers instant coffee and two teaspoons of Sugar in the Raw in about six ounces of water microwaved for one minute and eleven seconds was the right way to start the day, that his Achilles were his weakest link, that he could run hard enough to blow out muscles and nerves. He knew that he would jump right off the top of the Temple and try to learn how to fly on the way down.
He knew things; but he needed a savior, a messiah. It is better to avoid the test. Better that someone else passes it for you.
Nelson knew that wine, tequila, stouts, dark chocolate, brown rice, green peas, red beans, V8, vanilla low-fat Greek Yogurt, graham crackers, Snickers, peanut butter, bananas, honey, skim milk, and Naked fruit smoothies were a few of his favorite things. And it was hard to keep himself from indulging.
But Nelson wondered if he could run the Boston Marathon. He still dreamed that the answer was yes.