― John D. Rhodes
Hollywood acting legend Gene Kelly might have enjoyed “Singin’ in the Rain,” but runnin’ in it is a whole other kettle of fish.
Longtime joggers who understand the fragile balance between dedication to cause and facing down meteorological debacle will be among the first to agree, “I’ll tolerate a little rain. I’ll even run in the moderate. But when it falls in buckets, when frogs leap for the hills and dry creek beds hum ‘Ol Man River’ ... that’s when I’m parking the Nikes and waiting for the bus.”
Sound words. It is advice plainly spoken by the road-weary whose ditches got a little too full a few too many times.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. So when does the learning kick in?
On a recent mid-afternoon Monday, I dared to gamble. Kenny Rogers even described it in a song, “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away ... know when to run.”
Even after 27 years of experience, I’m still fine-tuning the latter portion of that verse; that is, exactly when to ... and when not to ... run.
Let’s pick it up where I left off last Sunday in Part 1:
“... And there I was, staring deep into the abyss of a frightening, even paralyzing storm front caught unaware, yet uncaring, of the behemoth threats that awaited my approach as I rounded yet another dead man’s curve along the treacherous route known as the Huff and Puff Freedom Trail — ”
OK. OK. A little over the top.
Let’s start again.
Even after the sixth or seventh blob of liquid sushine splashed off the sloping waterslide of my forehead, I still doubted the menacing clouds above carried any true danger. Bouncing off the hot asphalt track below my black Nikes, and occasionally dowsing areas of my scalp that once were covered in hair, these were those giant globules of rain, the kind that tease the easily intimated. These were the caliber of felon raindrops that had sent many’a picnickers scurrying for the cars or that had brought premature ends to too many short-lived baseball games.
I would not follow this panicked crowd. I was here for the long haul.
So the run continued. And the tear-shaped meteors from heaven grew bigger while falling with pronounced vigor and increased frequency.
“It’s gonna blow around,” I mumbled, reflecting on the camping excursion years earlier at the Loretta Lynn Dude Ranch when my father-in-law Billy Wade Swindell had voiced the same prophecy. I spoke of his eloquence last week. I’ll quote him further in months to come. He’s a quotable guy on all matters domestic and foreign, even universal.
Had The Weather Channel been around earlier in his career, this West Tennessee wizard of meteorology and self-professed magnet of wisdom might have answered a new and higher calling. Cantore might never have become a household name and Dr. Greg Forbes today would be little more than faithful assistant to Dr. Bill.
And the run continued.
By now, my grey T-shirt was spotted with tiny wet circles like a leopard dancing in the jungles of the Amazonian rain forest. For any who doubt, of course leopards dance. Whether their choreographed commotions occur in the Amazon Basin I cannot say with a degree of certainty. The words just looked good in print.
My glance into the heavens told an ugly story. The dark clouds were merging like an army of over-toasted marshmallows marching toward their sticky end. Yet my feet knew no surrender. My course was straight. My goal was noble. My aim was the full eight miles or bust because “ ... it was gonna blow around.”
It never occurred to me to cross my fingers nor whisper a few “Hail Mary’s” nor scream empty threats into the faceless sky. But my purpose remained unfazed. Get this run in at all costs or get wet in the trying.
In hindsight, now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to think it through, I kind of wish I had not thrown in the “... get wet in the trying” bit. Martyrdom just made it worse because sometimes in life we get what we ask for ... especially in the world of all-weather jogging.
Now the size of clear-coated cannon balls, the raindrops — sort of a one-size-fits-all tribute to squishy water balloons without the balloons — reminded me surprisingly enough of Chicken Little. I can’t remember the outcome, but his trumpeting of “the sky’s falling” alarm suddenly carried new meaning.
In this case, the sky truly was falling. And its trajectory seemed affixed to my every position.
Wiping a cupped handful of Niagara Falls from my dripping face, I noticed the wet circles of my T-shirt were bleeding together like open wounds. My shorts were beginning to hug my southernmost end and the poor black Nikes ... they sounded like cows pulling hooves from the barnyard mud.
Perhaps my time had come to seek cover.
The ensuing clap of thunder — which I equate to the roar of an angered Mt. Vesuvius, followed by a streaking bolt of lightning thrown by Zeus himself — aided in my decision.
(Next Sunday: We will end this outdoor adventure with Part 3, an installment that closely parallels the familiar adage often screamed by Grandmother Norton, “Boy, ain’t you got sense enough to get outta the rain?”)