Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Anima Sana In Corpore Sano

This city, undoubtedly, is going to whip me into shape. Part of it is the (free 24-day pass for now) gym membership to the nicest gym facility I've ever worked out at - hundreds and hundreds of shiny new machines, full lap pool, free group exercise classes around the clock - and part of it is the commute there. It's always said of those record-smashing marathoners from Kenya and Ethiopia that their talent stems from their childhoods in Africa, running six, eight, ten miles every day to get to school. The whole explanation for Kenyan speed and ungodly endurance has become a bit of a cliche in the marathoning world, but if there's any truth to it, my legs sure are cashing in on it on my 24-block commute to the gym.

Capitol Hill, the neighborhood where I'm living now, contains half of Seattle's dozen steepest hills. Aptly named, it looms over downtown, and connects to it with an epic bridge over Interstate 5 that has quickly become my favorite hill in all of Seattle to run. The almost entirely uphill blocks that follow it on my run home are fairly epic, too, but there's something special about that bridge - the roar of traffic below, the city, the water, the Space needle behind me, my new home ahead, and the inevitable passerby or two who shoot me a scornful look as if to say, What the hell is wrong with you?

I love being that crazy person drenched in sweat, water bottle in hand, arms pumping, legs pumping, eyes steadfast...I used to look at those people - the midday summer runners going uphill, that is - and feel a bittersweet mix of disgust and envy. I like that in a few short weeks, this city has made me the object of such gazes.

Living in the Midwest my whole life has allowed me to be a runner without ever having to touch a hill if I didn't feel like it. Which, surprise surprise, I never did. Now I have no choice, and the awful hills I thought I'd dread have become my coaches, my trainers yelling at me to keep going, push harder, not give up...conquer! There's something distinctly empowering about hills, and the more I do them, the stronger I feel the next time.

That, in conjunction with battling motorized boat waves and wakes while swimming in open water, and going to hardcore 60-minute spinning (cycling) classes at the gym several times a week, and walk-commuting everywhere I need to go, has already made my heart feel so much stronger than it was a month ago. My body's happy. And as the ASICS motto goes: Sound mind in a sound body. (Translated from the Latin in the title of this post...)

Days in Seattle with no rain yet: 21

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