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The Road

When She Calls, She Screams

Published March 15, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

An old running shoe commercial proclaimed: "When the road calls, she screams." This morning, I experienced that call firsthand.

Early for work as usual, I parked my truck and walked toward my office. It was a cold, wet and miserable day. As I hurried my steps in the pouring rain, I heard her calling, "come run." I walked faster toward a dry and warm building. She called again, "come run."

In the comfort of my armchair, with a hot cup of coffee in hand, I logged onto my computer. She called again. "It is beautiful here, come run." I ignored her and called up my e-mail messages. I had 22. She called again. "You have not run in a long time."

Not true. I ran Saturday. I opened my first message. She called again. "Saturday was no run. You fooled around. Come run." I did not fool around. I ran two miles. "You call that running? You walked every other lap." I had been sick. I still was recovering.

The voice went away. She left me alone. I had won again. Onto the second message. She came back, as suddenly as she had left. "That's just an excuse. You have been off medication for two weeks. You are just too lazy." I am not lazy. I will run after work.

I looked at the falling rain outside my window. I felt her grip on me. Her voice grew impatient and accusing. "You are avoiding me. You never run after work. You get tired at the end of the day. Come run now."

When the road calls, she screams. Her screams got louder in my ears. Like a neglected lover, she became restless and pleading. She insisted. "Work will wait for your return, but I won't be there after work."

My eyes glazed over the screen. I looked but could not see. I read but did not comprehend. I could not focus on my work. Her calling was too intense to postpone. Her pleas gave way to anger. Wet and windy, disheveled and cold, she pulled me toward her. I could no longer wait.

I gave in to her persistence. I frantically changed. I abandoned the comfort of my office and embraced her. As I ran into the wind, I heard her calling. Her anger changed into passion. She whispered to soothe me, and gloated to own me. I bared my soul as the cold rain soaked my clothing. Shivering, I followed her confidently.

For an hour I pounded relentlessly, as she led me up her hills and down her valleys. The drenching rainfall washed the sweat off my face. Out of shape and out of breath, my heart raced inside my chest. I begged her to release me and pleaded for mercy. She refused my plea and mocked my frailty.

She was my lone salvation as my legs got heavier. I stared down her vast reaches and struggled to keep my rhythm. She looked as lonely and felt as hard as ever. With every breath and every beat, my limbs lost feeling. There was no stopping. I had to finish the journey.

As I pushed harder toward a fitting ending, a wave of emotions overtook me. The pleasure of fulfillment mixed with the pain of labor. I marshaled my forces as my feet struggled to move forward. There was little remaining evidence that my limbs obeyed me.

Finally, she released me into the agony of cramping and the solace of thawing. As I stood motionless under a steaming shower, I recovered my senses and soothed my muscles. My skin glowed from the beating rainfall and my face burned from the harsh wind chill.

Like a love song, her voice returned to soothe my pains and to refresh my senses. Rejoicing in her victory, she led me back to the comfort of my office. Like she promised, work had waited for me.

Kamal Jabbour has learned not to argue with the call of the road. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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