At this time of year the sun sets early and straight. Straight down into the road that runs from the state hospital to Dausokele bridge. Homeward bound the sun is a solar blast furnace that blinds me and my juggled tennis balls. Sweat seeps into my eyes and burns. I know only joy as I run into that setting sun. The sun sets me free.
On the return from Dausokele I can either turn left at 4TY and head home or extend along the waterfront road to Mesenieng. There I can opt to turn for home and head up to Spanish wall or extend again to the airport.
The left turn brings me up past an indigenous ink art salon. Tattoos are a part of custom, culture, and tradition out here. They were and are a part of identity, and both men and women often sport traditional and modern tattoos. I do not have any tattoos, do not want tattoos. Running is my tattoo.
Thirty-five years of running have left a mark that is underneath my skin. Not topical. And no less permanent than a tattoo. I do not look like much as I am an LSD runner – Long Slow Distance. A few hidden muscles than are only hinted at when my foot contacts pavement. Bones that are slightly stronger from hundreds of thousands of impacts over three decades. On the inside I am a runner.
Insides and outsides are important. Some people are one thing on the outside and another on the inside. While running and juggling I am watching the road, watching cars. An eastbound car at Angie’s swings a hard and fast left in towards Mapusi. The young female driver’s gaze is fixed forward, she does not look left or right. She dare not. Her father is very strict conservative religious hypocrite. I gather he has forbidden the daughters from marrying, and the one that did was ostracized. The single sisters can only visit their sister in wedlock when the father leaves the island, and then only with care not to be detected. Forgiveness is in short supply in that family, despite that being the purported core of the faith. The outside one meets in the street is not the same as the inside the daughters know all too well. Extreme authoritarian fathers were possibly a reason young island women may have suggested to their young lovers, “Let’s get in a canoe and go on a long and dangerous journey across the open ocean in hopes of finding a new place to live.” Run, runaway across the water. The worst that could happen is that the two lovers would be lost at sea, becoming the stuff of legends.
As I run I duck in and out of stores in search of oatmeal – that breakfast treat which I enjoy not for the claimed cholesterol busting qualities but rather for the gluten-free nature of pure oatmeal. The island had actually run out of oatmeal, although not likely as a result of some sudden rise in popularity of the pasty porridge. Although my run for the oatmeal would end in failure to find the flecks, information would later reach me of a cache in a small store on the waterfront.
Runs end on a steady climb into a final uphill, a last push into Dolihner. Homes where runs end on an uphill have been good to me in life thus far. A last piece of rising terrain on which to test what I have left in the tank. Uphills have always been my friend out on the road. For an LSD runner an uphill is a chance to gain ground – I move at the same slow speed on flat terrain, downhill, and uphill. My velocity is essentially independent of the slope.
Next weekend there is a diabetes day run from the hospital. In a nation ranked number one on the planet in 2012 for the rate of diabetes, the marks that diabetes makes on the body are an all too common sight here. The missing limbs, the dialysis scars. Diabetes is a terrible tattoo. Running away from diabetes is literally possible – run. Run long. Longer than an hour. Run hard. Run until you can talk but cannot sing. Run daily. Works amazingly well at preventing diabetes. Besides, if you can run faster and farther than the hospital staff, then they can’t catch you to cut stuff off. Or at least that is my theory.
The runs that start at the hospital are usually run into Kolonia, a loop around midtown, and back out to the hospital. The route is a favorite of mine primarily because of the rolling terrain that the route features. Plus the finish line is at the emergency bay of the hospital – what better place to end a run? “Doctor, my heart is pounding and I am out of breath…”