Most of us here in northeastern Massachusetts got off easy during Hurricane Sandy. At my house we lost power for less than two hours and had, basically, no damage unless you count a small puddle in the basement. All of the trees that would have been knocked down had already come down last Halloween, during that freak snowstorm, so all I had in my yard was a lot of sticks and leaves all over the place.
Obviously in New York and New Jersey, and a few other places, the folks weren't so lucky. The scenes on news sites and on friends' Facebook pages and whatnot are just incredible. And yet, for those of us who survived, life goes on.
Last Saturday morning, during the calm before the storm, I got up early and drove up to Stratham, New Hampshire. I parked my car in a field behind a park and got out, walking gingerly to keep from soaking my feet in the dew that had formed on the long grass. I jogged over toward the park, occasionally weaving in and out of the crowd that was mostly walking in the same direction I was running. When I got there, I waited in line for the port-a-potty then headed out onto the roads for some more jogging before I retraced my steps back to my car, changed into lighter shoes, stripped off some layers and pinned a number on the front of my shirt. Then I jogged back through the park and crossed the street toward the starting line of yet another 5k road race.
I breathed in the cool morning air, breathed out, and tried to clear my mind of all external goals and distractions. And when the gun fired I ran. I allowed myself to become consumed with the effort of running as fast as I could over five thousand meters. For a little while there was no other place, no other time--there was only right then and right there. It was beautiful.
I ran as hard as I could, maybe as hard as I ever have, and put myself into quite a bit of difficulty at the end and yet I missed my goal by 7 seconds. I was completely happy. I was happy because for nearly 17 minutes I ran free in the belief that I had given myself a chance to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself many years ago. During those 17 minutes I did not wish that I was anyone else or that I was anywhere else. I didn't worry about the bills to be paid, whether my kids were doing okay in school or whether the hurricane charging up the coast would destroy my home. For those 17 minutes there was only the road, and the cool fall air, and the crisp New England sky, the other runners. I experienced every one of those 17 interesting minutes to the fullest.
Don't get me wrong--things like electricity, running water, education, food, shelter, presidential elections and smart phones are all interesting and necessary to sustain modern day life. But once in a while it is helpful to remind ourselves what it feels like to actually be alive.