Monday I went out running at three p.m., essentially noon here in Madrid, the height of the heat. I ran down our hill, through the park to Principio Pio, down to the river, across the bridge, alongside the river, across the bridge again and up the hill. I wanted to get to the stoplight that ends the park and is halfway up the hill to our apartment. I had to look down at the sidewalk and ignore how far I had to go in order to make it.
The entire run the dry heat of Madrid burned my lungs as I sucked in air, thin with oxygen.
I'm so extreme aren't I?
Let me explain. I thrive on such weather. I have always run in the most insane conditions. When I was nineteen and a friend of mine was about to enter the military, I joined him on an extensive program designed to get him ready for basic training. It focused on push-ups and running. He was going to join in early spring so our regiment was in a bitter Vermont winter. We would run every day, sometimes twice or even three times a day. Being night people, we would usually run at midnight or later in below zero weather wearing shorts, t-shirt, gloves and ski-masks. See, your legs and arms and chest don't get cold when you're running, but the freezing air sucked into your lungs burns without a mask, preheated by your breath. Your fingers also get very cold when running at below zero temperatures.
Mark and I would even run before and after our main run. He lived two miles away. He would run down to my house, we would watch a movie or music videos (new at the time) and then go out for a run in the peaceful quiet dark of a Vermont winter night. Some nights he would run down to my folk's house, rest, we would go for our run, rest, run up to his house two miles away, watch something on satellite that I didn't have access to, then I would run home at four in the morning.
That was pretty extreme.
In college, depressed over a girl, I ran 8.8 miles in a driving snowstorm in my typical t-shirt, shorts, ski mask and gloves. Two months later in early Spring I was into barefoot running but hadn't done it yet that season. I went running with a female running partner who had somehow, unexpectedly, surpassed me in endurance. The ground was frozen. The road was dirt, rocks and half-frozen mud. Every step, cold hard pain shot through my feet to mid calf. She started at a brisk pace and then I realized the whole run was going to be at this insane speed.
Five minutes in I thought: "Can I do this?"
She was one of my best friends. Very attractive, kind, wise, humble, innocent and had a boyfriend out of town who she had been faithful to for two years through college. I respected her immensely. I know she felt the same about me. One night, she had too much to drink (unusual for her) and I was actually summoned by a mutual friend to where she was. "Oh, Jamie's here, everything will be alright now," she said as she fell unconscious into my arms. I carried her back to her room where a friend took control from there.
I was not about to quit in front of her.
At this point in my life, I was just getting secure in who I was and what I was made of. I had left high school the shortest kid in my class with a horrible GPA. I was never the standout wrestling star my brother was, never once winning a tournament but collecting a vast array of third place medals. Short, not very intelligent, not exactly athletic, I only had my will and wiry frame that grew seven inches in the year after high school.
The year I took off from college and Mark and I ran, I started to come into my own. I had real willpower and a great friend. In college I cultivated a group of dependable, amazing friends who I am friends with to this day and see often.
My rallying cry at that time was "I'm Jamie Wakefield Goddamnit!"
All of this was before I was leader of a guild, winner of PTQ's, a writer about Magic, an Inn Manager, a respected computer tech and people asking me to autograph cards. I was a young man trying to find himself whose only success was in the loyalty of my friends and my own willpower. My rallying cry wasn't based on "Look at what I have done" because I hadn't actually done, anything yet. It was more a "I am me. How do I see myself? I am not a quitter. I believe in my willpower over all else." I am me.
I thought to myself, "I'm Jamie Wakefield Goddamnit" and I turned off the pain. I focused on breathing, keeping even with her, matching pace, breathing, I had no feet, breath, there is no pain. Just run.
I ran the four miles, lungs burning, barefoot, my feet numb after the first mile, blocks of ice and bloody by the end.
"Yeah, thanks. Good run."
And I limped back to my dorm.
That was pretty extreme too.
Monday was not extreme because it was pretend. It was not a pattern, it was a single day. I had to stop more often than I wished and the air was dry and burned my throat to an extent I wasn't expecting. When I finished, I was disappointed with myself. Anyone can go out and run in a hundred degree heat if they stop when they get tired. I was pretending to be extreme but actually... wasn't.
So, I decided I would run every day this week in the hundred degree heat.
Tuesday went much better. I made sure I was beyond hydrated. I also had multiple cups of coffee and was vibrating by the time I went out for my run at 5:00 p.m. when it had topped a hundred degrees. I stopped only when lights were against me and I would have had to run into traffic to keep going. All three of those stops were less than twenty seconds apiece. I was tired by the time I was running along the river and assured myself there was no shame in stopping once I got to the bridge. Instead, I made it to the bridge and I kept going, running all the way to the stoplight, resting fifteen seconds as I waited for it to turn, then sprinted up the hill to the next light. I had done the exact same run as the day before, but infinitely better and infinitely more proud of myself.
Today I have gone to the gym, rode the bike, did three sets of bench, curls, triceps and lats. Then I went shopping on the way home and carried sixty pounds of groceries up five flights of steps.
I feel great. And in two hours, when it tops a hundred degrees, I'm going running.
End note: This was all going to wrap up into a message about weight loss, friends, determination and advice. But, this is long enough. My butt hurts from sitting. I hope this didn't come off as "look how cool I am," because I meant it to come off as "I used to be extreme now I'm faking it, but I'm trying to be better." This week should be filled with entries about "My Wife the Spy part III," the conclusion to what I really meant to say in this article, what I went through to lose 40 lbs, and possibly some book reviews, rambles about the BMW car we rented and even some politics. Who knows, but I'm hopeful.