Before Sunrise – The Run Up The Mountain (Pattaya)
The street is still wet from the rains throughout the night, but the sky above is black and clear and starless as always. It’s quiet, but the doors to the front of the gym are open and a couple of familiar bodies appear out of the shadows of the garage as I park my motorbike. If there are boys around, it means we can run. I get off my motorbike and carry my helmet and keys into the gym, leaving them both on the side of the kid’s ring. Everything is silhouettes – the posts of the main ring, the bags hanging, the tires on the ground, the tangle of jump-ropes draped over the posts that hang the bags. The air is cool but humid; it’s sticky on my face and hands but I’m happy I wore tights because there’s a chill when the wind moves. It doesn’t blow, just moves.
Outside again there’s this bizarre orange light that reflects off the street. It’s from the tall streetlamps, but it seems to float across the surface of the black pavement in a way that doesn’t connect to anything else. Or maybe it’s that everything else is black and gray. I kick off my shoes and step into the front of the gym store, hand Bank some coins and collect a small water from the fridge a few feet back from the desk. The house feels asleep. Bank tells me there’s no run at Silverlake today, the event I look forward to all week, because his dad (my trainer) is “lazy.” He means he didn’t wake up to drive us out, but I’m not even surprised. I can feel it in the house, how sleepy it feels. Nobody is awake except Bank and he’s probably going back to sleep anyway. I laugh, nod to him and head back outside with my water. I hate the daily run that’s just down the huge Thepprasit road and up the side a bit. It’s just too much concrete and the boys like to stop at the 7-11 at the end point before turning back. Sitting for 10 minutes in the middle of an already boring run bums me out. But outside I see Angie and go over to talk to her as she climbs off her bike. I tell her the run isn’t happening and her eyes widen in the dim light. “I had a dream this morning that Pi Nu cancel the run,” she says, as if telling me she’d prophesied something miraculous. She’s still looking at me with this expression of her dream having become real and I start laughing, but I’m also annoyed. I probably felt this run was unlikely since last night as well, given all the rain and since so many of the boys just fought and are going to be on post-fight vacation for a week. Angie snaps out of her self-imposed trance, “let’s go run the mountain,” she says. Sure. I collect my helmet from the ring and follow Angie’s motorbike on my own.
I’ve been to the mountain, but I’ve never run there. It’s close enough to the gym but it’s hard to get there, so it takes a bunch of side roads that I connect in my mind as I follow behind Angie’s taillight – the scratches on the visor of my helmet making the task of driving in the dark much harder than it ought to be. Down this narrow street, then over on this main road; then up the steep pass to the turnoff and parking on exactly the opposite side from where I anticipated we were going. Twisty. We park and stand at the start of a paved path, cut through the trees. There’s a steep hill to the right, a steep drop to the left. And as we start to run we come upon an area where the trees have been cut, like a curtain drawn to the side, and below we could see the lights of the city against the black of everything else. Pattaya is rarely beautiful. Sometimes a sunset will catch my breath or when we go down a road that betrays what it looked like 20 years ago, just a sudden swath of thick jungle out of nowhere, I’m amazed by its beauty. But never by the city itself; not until this moment. I fill my lungs with that cool, sticky air and feel a heaviness in my legs from the squats I experimented with yesterday, but my heart and shoulders feel light.
Angie and I move through the darkness, each listening to one earphone of music and the other ear naked so we can hear the other person. But we don’t talk until many laps in to the run. There are dogs lounging on benches and resting their noses on ledges of small pagoda-like shelters. They are the kings of this hill, for sure. Sleepy kings. There’s a cat, too. But just one and he’s as vigilant as any cat at this hour, eyes wide and glinting as it turns its owl-like head in the dark. Every so often we pass by a person walking, but nobody is running like Angie and I are. We have purpose. We have determination in our stride. At some points in each lap there are uphill climbs that we seem to land on and adjust the height of our steps at exactly the same time, allowing us to stay shoulder-to-shoulder like the legs working together on a galloping horse. On the Silverlake run, I never run with anybody. I’m always way ahead of the group or between the fastest boys and everyone else. My pace is only my pace, it never matches with anyone. So, in this darkness, as the sky is beginning to turn a navy blue out of the black of “before sunrise,” I feel like Angie and I are drifting – the word used in the movie “Pacific Rim” to describe the process by which two individual people operate as one mind to control a giant machine. There’s no giant machine, it’s just the run itself. It’s wonderful. It feels like when we’re sitting at her drink shop in the heat of day, chatting along for a couple hours to connect about training. Except here it’s the opposite of that, in the cool darkness, moving and not speaking, but still connecting in the training.