Sunday, December 25, 2011

#379: A Christmas Day Run

Nephew.. keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine. - A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.

So here's how I kept Christmas this year:

32° 10.01mi/2:07:47 @ 9:15. AGL/ParkersMill Loop. Adidas Grey. 5:00 run/0:45 walk. Splits: 12:53 12:11 12:12 12:15 12:33 12:54 12:55 13:17 13:18 13:10.. Once you're off the highway, this is a beautiful course. Hills, farms, horses, South Elkhorn Creek. Perfect Christmas run.
It was still dark when the dogs woke me. I let them out and bundled up next to Mrs P for a few extra minutes. Before long, Clare started yipping and a smoke alarm started the chirp that tells you it's time to remove the battery and forget to replace it until the time changes again. I got up and fumbled with the thing for a while, then let the dogs back into the house and gave them breakfast. Put on a pot of coffee. Pulled on the running clothes I had laid out last night. Made some toast.

Even under the best circumstances, it's a bit of a chore to get Mrs P up and moving on Sunday morning. Of course, last night we were at church until late, then we came home and made our final preparations for Santa's arrival, (just in case, you know?) I was pretty confident she would be sleeping in this Christmas. The dogs returned to their naps, and I opened up to find a route for the morning. There is a road near our home I've been wanting to run, but it's pretty narrow and I worry about traffic. I figured Christmas morning was likely to be a low volume time, so I laid it out. 10 miles. Rolling hils. Country roads. Just my style.

While I was there, I did a search and checked out the route for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Man, it looks so brutal. There's a nearly 200 ft climb from mile 11 to mile 12. That's steeper than anything I've ever tried to run. I'm going to need to spend some time in the mountains this winter.

Once the sun had come out and the temperature had risen to a balmy 32°, I put on my warm-up suit and reflective vest and hit the road. The morning was just beautiful. The steely gray sky gradually warmed to clear blue as the day warmed my face. The first 3 miles are along a highway that I have driven many times. It's such a different perspective when you run. At one point, a bunny loped along ahead of me, by the side of the road. I'm not sure if he was running away, or trying to coax a tortoise into a race. We had fun for a few yards, anyway. My route took me past my beloved Actors' Guild, then turned toward farmland. This little road follows the banks of South Elkhorn Creek for a while, then climbs up toward Bluegrass Airport. Running past horse farms on a sunny morning is heavenly. Doing it on Christmas morning defies any language I can put together. I can't explain this, but when I'm running, I find the smell of horse manure in a field to be so exhilarating. It smells of earth and life and it's just so... I don't know... pure, you know? 

It got me thinking about Joseph. Poor, old, quiet Joseph. He had to walk a long way, a lot longer than I ran this morning. He had a young finance who had turned up mysteriously pregnant. He had a dream telling him he should marry her anyway. Now, he had the Romans calling him back to Bethlehem for a "census," whatever that meant. Probably more taxes. This was no way to start the winter. Then, when he finally dragged his little family into town, they couldn't find a bed. Wound up sleeping in the barn. Surrounded by animals. The smell of horse manure. I wonder if the carpenter from Nazareth took any comfort from that. Sitting there awake while his wife delivered somebody's child in the straw. Smelling the animals. Hearing their breathing and shuffling feet. And once it was all over, and Mary slept with the child on her breast. Did Joseph put his head down in the straw and look up at the stars, breathing in the earthy smells of the stable, wondering what just happened, and what it would mean for him and his bride-to-be? Before long, Joseph would be walking again, the Gospels tell us. This time, he walked all the way to Egypt while Herod hunted for the little boy hidden in swaddling clothes, riding in his mother's arms on a donkey laden with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Myrrh. Just what a newborn needs. Maybe he could sell it when they got to Egypt to buy some tools. I wonder if Joseph had any hope in his heart, in the midst of all that confusion. He was doing his best to do the right thing, and it was turning out to be more difficult than anyone could have anticipated. He would marry the girl. He would raise the boy. He would pretend nothing was wrong, that he couldn't hear the snickers, that it didn't hurt to know his wife had been unfaithful. He did it for the sake of the child; for the sake of the woman. He did the right thing. And in a way, Joseph taught his son how to do the right thing; even when it hurt; even when it made no sense; even when it cost more than anyone could have imagined. 

I made it home just as Mrs P was wrapping the last present. She got a set of Harry Potter DVD's. I got two books on marathons by Jeff Galloway and Grete Waitz. We went out to Hunan for dinner, but didn't have the Chinese Turkey. Now, as I type, three dogs are stretched out on the floor, Clare is curled up in my chair, Kizzie is sleeping on a blanket in front of the heating vent in our bedroom, and Maggie is rolled up in a ball on our bed. Mrs P is reading. It's as perfect a Christmas as I can imagine. I hope old Joseph got to enjoy one or two in his life. That's the best part about Christmas. It's the night Hope was born.
He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms.
Peace, and Merry Christmas

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