Middle of the Road
by Gregg Bibb
I run in the middle of the road. More specifically, on days when I run in the predawn hours, I take to the middle. Choosing this path has rewarded me physically, emotionally and psychologically. Here, I have rid myself of a nagging pain but, more importantly, I have found treasures aplenty that carry me through the day.
First, I go there to avoid camber. I once read that engineers who design roads are responsible for it. The camber of a road is the slant that ensures water drainage and thus helps motorists avoid hydroplaning. I reasoned that part of the pain I was experiencing in my left hip stemmed from running on this annoying slanted asphalt. Looking for a solution, I headed for the centerline. It seemed to work. Granted, the relief I felt may have been psychological more than physiological but, whatever the reason, there I was, following the yellow painted line.
My hip thanked me for the change. Then, on a morning not any different from most others, I began to experience some wonderful, unexpected results. I wasn’t looking for them; they found me. I became aware of new thoughts. At first, they were foggy and muddled and just out of reach. I welcomed them, though, and tried to nurture them. They made me feel good, faster, stronger and mentally tough. Finally, I took note. I was in the middle of the road! What in the name of shin splints was I doing? I didn’t belong there. I was wearing a pair of Adrenalines, not driving a Hummer. Yet, there I was, as if this territory were mine, all mine. I had stumbled into a wonderful and pleasing groove that whupped the pants off of an endorphin rush. The winter air I was exhaling felt better than ever. My ear had attuned to a voice that would begin calling me out in the wee hours, urging me to get dressed and go.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I live on the edge of a small town and the roads are mostly quiet and empty at 5 a.m. When I get the slightest inkling that a motorist is approaching, I scamper to the shoulder of the road like the scared rabbit that I am. But as soon as that menacing heap of machinery passes by, I’m back in my rebellious path, full of bravery and machismo. Bring it on! I give a little chest thump, confident that there’s no one around to snicker.
I enjoy the paradoxical twist on this tired old phrase – middle of the road. Describing something as middle of the road is not exactly high praise. Rather, it smacks of being ordinary, average, a lifeless yawn. If you’re middle of the road, you’re lukewarm on a good day. God warned us of this dreadful condition centuries ago. Better to be hot or cold than lukewarm or He would spew you out of His mouth. I avoid this terrible fate by putting on a pair of shoes and a reflective vest and literally going to the middle of the road, where I become unique and extraordinary and find my salvation.
I become a kid again when I’m there, streaking through the kitchen to grab a cookie before Mom knows. I’m a rebel, unshaven and ruggedly handsome, the envy of the ordinary white-collar worker making his way to a cubicle. I’m raging against City Hall, preaching to the applauding masses about the injustices that the establishment forces upon us. As Jack Black said in the movie, “School of Rock”, I’m sticking it to the Man. There’s nothing that the Man can do about it either, not while I’m in the middle of the road. I own all of this out here. And while I’m there, I right many wrongs and solve complex problems. I scold the person who was rude to me on the phone yesterday. I present an idea at work that is guaranteed to be a huge success. I compose in my head. Every thought is perfect and beautiful and needs no revision.
A full moon and the occasional streetlight induce the tall pine trees to create long and disfigured shadows. As I meet them, however, they straighten and come to life. They are my foot soldiers; I, their captain. They take up arms, fall in line behind me and obey my commands as we prepare to storm the dark, evil castle in the distance. Our brothers and sisters are held captive there. They survive only by the threadbare hope that we may one day come marching in a thunderous, dust-filled cloud to free them, make them human again, and slash the life out of the king and his hollow-eyed minions. Indeed, we free our loved ones and rid the world of this dastardly kingdom. Once again, our brave hearts and mighty deeds have made us heroes.
Eventually, common sense and fallen arches send me home to get ready for the day. A white collar and a work cubicle await me. There will be emails to answer, problems to address and dirty data to scrub. When I arrive at work, there he stands in the corner - the Man - waiting for an anguished look from me. No way. I subdued him hours ago, doing nine-minute miles, carrying a flashlight, running in the middle of the road.
Thanks Gregg for sharing your article.
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