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Treadmill

03/22/06 12:00AM By Caleb Daniloff
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(HOST) Commentator Caleb Daniloff finds that a hard workout can often cause you to see things in a different light.

(DANILOFF) When it's too slippery to run outside or time is short, I climb on the treadmill we have set up in a back room. It stands
in front of a window looking out on the backyard. I usually run early morning when it's still dark. As I settle onto the conveyor belt,
I spy my reflection in the glass, pale hands busying themselves with the control buttons, fumbling with my iPod and headphones. Too late to sneak back to bed now: this guy's watching me like a hawk.

As the motor kicks into gear, I drape a hand towel over the blue-
lit display panel. Watching the seconds trickle down to zero while
I run nowhere fast has implications hard to digest at this hour. Instead, I measure time in song lengths and weight of my sweaty T-shirt.

Five minutes in, and my aches and pains start sounding off like
a gathering mob. I trot out my inner dictator to urge patience.
Still they moan, questioning my resolve, calling for an exit strategy. I have no choice but to put down their protests. I increase the speed and incline, striking the belt with added violence and they are soon numbed into submission. But I
know I haven't heard the last of them. They'll be back, louder
than ever, and they'll bring others.

I turn my attention to the figure in the window running at me
with quiet determination. I can't make out the facial features
in the watery dark - only the pale sawing arms, the pumping
legs, the bobbing head. Is he running for help? For joy? For
his life?

Beyond my reflection, a pale yellow streetlamp shimmers
and an occasional set of car lights bores through the tree-
lined blackness. Farther off, the lights on the Congregational
Church wink and twinkle. But the ocean of dark can be murky
and disorienting, and my inner saboteur tries to convince me I've not eaten enough, that I'm feeling faint, that guys like me never go the distance.

The argument has merit. I'm melting like a candle here. The treadmill's computer speeds me up and down, then up again.
I'm tethered to the back of a pick-up. My breathing is labored,
my form in doubt, and one foot in front of the other has become
a monumental task. I'm ready to start making deals.

But the faster I run, the lighter it gets outside. I feel like a hamster powering the works, my footfalls moving the belt that slowly raises the sun. I can begin to make out our wooden gate, the cars in the driveway, my neighbor's hulking woodpile. A squirrel lingers on the weathered fence between their house and the next, window shades still down. There's no hurry, no human routines.
I wish I could simply hop off and stop the day at this half-light, leaving scientists and citizens to scratch their heads in wonder.

A few minutes later, the spire lights on the Congregational Church go out, and I lose sight of the white steeple in the sky; the two have merged into one, into nothing. And I'm reminded why I run
at this time, what I've been moving toward for the past hour: to rise with the world, to watch it tune up but not yet burst, to be in that perfectly still moment of in-between. I watch my reflection fade from the window pane, and then I'm gone, left only with my feet noiseless beneath me.

This is Caleb Daniloff of Middlebury.

Caleb Daniloff is a copywriter, book reviewer and freelance journalist.
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