There are no runners around. Okay, there’s one other regular runner in town. She runs the two or three blocks around our neighborhood, a mile loop if I were to piece together the different segments I’ve seen her run. When I first moved to this sheltering interstice of rotting dreams I noticed the large amounts of roadkill and dangerous roadside debris: needles, broken bottles, ropy vines, fallen rock. There are no running trails here. The parks do not have running water. The toilets are port-a-johns shoved inside once working bathrooms. What happened here?

Hey, yins, what happened to Brownsville?

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I saw another runner, a man, running alongside a busy road in a hat, gloves, jogging suit. That was in October. I haven’t seen him since. So, when I run, I can safely say I never see another runner. I never see another bicyclist. Never see a hiker. You get the idea. People here don’t do anything like that. I have heard of Pennsylvania described as Two Cities Surrounded By Alabama. I get drive-by insults. People jeer at me, call me crazy, stop and whisper. Or honk at me. While running through neighborhoods, I might spot faces looking away from me when I glance their way, and I imagine that while I recede from view people are looking at me and wondering what’s wrong with me. This is solitary.

 

After six months, I finally talked to my neighbor. As shy as I am, I can’t blame this social inertia on the townspeople. I don’t go to bars, don’t walk through my neighborhood – if I see people here it’s at a seven to eight mph clip. I spend almost all of my free time hanging out with my five-year old and zero-year old boys. Day and night. I am forever trying to carve a half hour out of my day to get in a run, before fatigue sets in and leaves me dazed, looking at the illuminated clock display at 3 am. The baby cries.

I have one race scheduled for June, one I won’t win, which is a plus going in to it, knowing I can just enjoy myself, have a good run, pressure’s off. Just like every race. I smoked a pack a day for twenty years. That I can run at all is a really great prize. I’m lucky.

This is a free event. You can join and run it up, ladies and gents. I jumped a snake Thursday. My reflexes are lightning-quick, and I have power of desert scorpion, power of aged milk. Power of beard and lightning! I’m getting started with a nice run here in about an hour. Drama-free, cats, keeping the mind empty.

I have to beat 323 miles to top my Personal Best in January. There is one less day in June than in January. That means you buy the Snausage and the mirrors and combs. This is free, an event with no awards, just a community, something everyone really needs. It’s really nice because the Internet has absolutely no foul odors. Because after twenty miles, people stink, and if you’ve ever ridden a subway with sixty stinking 10K runners, then you feel me. And you wish you didn’t.

So, because of this isolation, I joined Juneathon to find some kindred spirits to run with for awhile. Most of these runners are in Great Britain. A very clean and refreshing collective of running enthusiasts enjoying a particularly fun pastime. I think I’ll make a T-shirt for the event. Maybe a cross-stitch of me rolling an ankle with a glob of spit flying out of my mouth as I collide into a tree. Bold contours, chromatic gold and black, 80s style. Maybe fire pottery with a bas relief of me running and kicking the head of Medusa over a Camaro. Maybe get a tattoo of a foot covered in superconductive titanium graphene foam breaking the sound barrier over a heart. The heart is breaking from the force of the sonic boom directly above it. That’s touching and innovative, but not complete until I have a couple of rainbow unicorn dolphins with the Alpha and Omega signs inscribed on their flanks to offset the radial waves depicting violent acoustic energy flowing out from the area surrounding my foot.

I’m doing it the right way.