Stirred by a storm
By Marlene Farrell
After a day of mostly sitting (three hours in a car and all-day conference sessions), a window opened — a chance to leap away from my warm drowsy stillness.
The weather happened to be crazy. Gales were bombarding the Puget Sound. Being inland by about 15 miles as the crow flies reduced the winds to semi-tamed beasts.
The only direction I wanted to head was away from tall buildings and highway noise. I happened to find myself running with the wind. I didn’t really think about it, but felt remarkably fast for being only minutes away from a Clark Kent-style transformation. I did notice, as I zipped by, the folks going the opposite direction looking beaten down by an invisible hand.
The tree branches whipped around but no leaves fluttered. The newly unfurled leaves were still firmly attached. A drake and a duck hunkered down next to the trail, not bothering to move from my hurried approach.
This was a long straight bike path, sandwiched between a creek and a development so I needed to turn around and head back. The wind was ready to do battle, but so was I. The force that pushed against my chest and thighs spurred me, gave me reason to activate those coasting muscles.
It was beyond invigorating. The wind roared in my ears. I was giddy with the thrill and flashed a crazy grin at everyone I passed. Clouds were darkening rapidly. At any moment the rain would begin.
I tried to shrink myself as if I could somehow slip between the cracks in the wind. When the gusts subsided I pushed harder, performing spontaneous fartleks.
Only the day before I’d been staring into equally rough weather, but on sea instead of land. I’d been at the helm of our trustworthy sailboat, Enterprise.
How very different my reaction had been. I wasn’t lively and cackling at the gusty barrage. I had braced my boots against the sides of the cockpit to steady myself as we thumped over the wind-whipped waves. I had looked out of a periscope-like hole from layers of buff, hat and two hoods. I felt rigid, like I was an extension of our rigging as I faced the wind, whereas when I ran I felt shaped by the wind, more akin to a sail.
When I’d had enough, especially my chilled fingers and nose, Kevin took the helm. I stayed in the cockpit, but behind the shelter of the dodger. The rush and noise were muffled there, and I let myself relax. At one point I looked over at Kevin and saw that his whole front was spattered with rain, which had started since we switched places. “Are you getting cold?” I nodded to his slick jacket and rosy wet cheeks.
He didn’t even know he was wet.
He was so into the sailing, the joy of riding the waves and going further upwind with the puffs that he had forgotten about himself. He had a gleam in his eyes and a smile that I had been missing while steering the ship.
It all made sense as I ran that next day. In our element, on our playground, we were both ready for a challenge, to up the ante for the reward of feeling more alive because of it. Kevin while sailing, me while running. I envied Kevin then, but realized that I could be there some day, equally ecstatic to be heeled over and tacking into the wind. The boat might someday feel like a second skin so that its movements were an extension of my own. I hope that will happen, because I certainly loved running into the wind and can’t wait for the next stormy opportunity.
Marlene Farrell is a writer, long-distance runner and coach. She lives in Leavenworth.