“I checked my map. No, this was just this beginning…”
Typically, running is a time and place I use for contemplation of personal and societal occurrences (and sometimes both, such as wondering how Sarah Palin stepping down from being the Alaskan Governor really shows her loyalty to her home state while simultaneously trying to figure out how I could be so out of the loop that I did not even know she resigned until Orange County’s peculiar version of NPR mentioned it this morning), or to hang out with my iPod (mmm. Bayside and Gretchen Yanover in the same set? Bring it!), or to enjoy fresh air as I cruise around in my well supported running shoes.
This morning, however, running morphed into a time and place where a mild panic attack can strike during the onset of two realizations: 1) I was entirely lost in what seemed to be an industrial and residential area in an unfamiliar town; 2) I really needed to use the bathroom.
I’ve been in Orange County now for a week and two days exactly, and I’d like to believe I am getting the hang of the street system (mostly that a lot of streets are really long, and will run parallel and perpendicular to a variety of other streets at any given moment) and how to locate which direction I am going. Two days ago, I found myself on an accidental 8 mile run — not because I was lost, but because I just ran out too far and was quite ecstatic to not be lost at all. Today however, was a 9 mile gem, strictly because I thought I was running east while I was busy running north. Whoops.
Problem number one dawned on me as I realized none of the streets I was passing were that familiar to me anymore. I had passed up a few that I had heard of, but that I thought would take me in the wrong direction since they were supposed to be perpendicular to the street I was hoping to find, but according to my calculations, were currently running parallel to it in some sort of Orange County twisty street challenge. I began trying to look at bus route maps as I passed bus stops, but they were not particularly helpful (where oh where was that Fashion Island greeter when I needed him? This man’s job was literally to stop you at the map of the mall, ask you where you were trying to go, and then direct you there so apparently you would not have to study the map like a cartography nut). I began to search for a convenience store, or any shopping that might give way to a pay phone so I could call my parents collect and ask them to bail me out. There was a nice wall blocking out a residential community on either side of the street. I finally choose to turn down another walled street in another direction, praying that it would get me back to a street I had heard of before.
Problem number two cropped up at this moment.* Now I know we’ve only briefly touched on this subject together, so I’ll try to be gentle. Sometimes, as any runner of any caliber knows, your body wants to betray you on a run. You’ll be loping along just fine, when suddenly, you need to Go. Make no qualms about it. The Mayo Clinic does a nice job of medically describing this: “Runner’s diarrhea is characterized by frequent, loose bowel movements during or immediately after a run.”** All of a sudden, I know that if I don’t find a bathroom in the next five minutes, I’m going to need to stop running. And even if I halt my jogging, I’ve only bought myself a few extra minutes. And if there is no bathroom in the vicinity, I end up imagining all the various places I could go…on the other side of the shrubbery at that abandoned house for sale…maybe on the side of the freeway. An elementary school open for Back to School Night once saved my ass (literally).
I have to digress. I know a lot of people who run (runners, I suppose we could call them) who have a cow’s four bellies full of stories about the moments problem number two has struck them. It would be unwise for my friendships to call them out by name or even by story, lest they feel a bit mortified by their moments. But one of my favorites involves a friend who indeed made it almost back to his apartment, and then detoured into a Port-O-Potty sitting on the corner by the entrance to his building. And I know exactly what that is like — where I would take a public outhouse over the comforts of my own toilet simply because I just am not sure I’d make it up my steps.
Right. Today. Without a fast-food joint in sight (all those walls, remember?), and with not a bush or tree to even imagine ducking behind (which I have never brought myself to do, though sometimes knowing I could makes me feel better), I had nothing to do but keep running, and clenching the entire lower half of my body together like I was a Ziplock bag with a safety seal. Maybe my right half is blue and my left is yellow and when squeeze that hard, I turn green. — stranger things have happened. So, with that delightful image, and with no idea where I was running, I kept plugging away and praying my iPod had enough juice to get me through. I thought about crying, because being lost is frustrating enough without having an extreme urge to have a BM (have one? Take one?), but I wasn’t sure I could handle that kind of release. Crying loosens your body up. Not a good plan for the Ziplocked me.
I had a few options. I could attempt to ask someone where I was (though the only person I saw was a kid lazily swaying down the street on his bicycle). I could stop at a bus stop and pray that the driver really wanted to let a heavily sweaty girl on the bus for free (or maybe for my iPod, as it’s all I had to barter with). There was the possibility of hitch-hiking, which sounds rather adventurous, but maybe not for the runner who forgot her mace this morning. And the idea of turning around crossed my mind as well, though I knew how long that would take, and I wasn’t looking forward to that. Or, I could keep going and pray.
The praying must have worked. Eventually, I came out to the street I had been hoping to find all along, a main thoroughfare that was a straight shot back to my apartment. Sure, it was another almost two miles of straightness, but that was fine. Better still, this avenue had a healthy stock of fast-food chains. But by then, I was sealed tight. Well, not tight, but enough. I wanted to be home with reckless abandon. After being lost, terrified I was going to have to call my mom for directions, and worried it would be hours before I could get on with my day, nothing sounded less appealing that dragging myself into a greasy Del Taco in hopes of not being harassed for not being a customer who wanted to use the loo. I chugged back to my apartment, stopping only once to “catch my breath.”*** And then, in the comfort of my own home — serenity.
Because of all this, I told myself it was okay to skip doing crunches today. Sometimes I have to bargain with me. That sounds crazy, but is totally normal.
I talked to my parents, separately, about being lost on my run, and both of their immediate responses? “Why didn’t you have a map?”
* While researching problem number two, I found this: http://themarathonmama.blogspot.com/2008/05/prevent-runners-diarrhea.html. She’s pretty great.