Tonight may have been the worst run ever.
To start with, it was 95 degrees. No, wait, to start with, I’m in the middle of yet another one of my short(ish) bouts with relatively mild(ish) sciatica; this one started Saturday afternoon, on my right side. From past experience I know that if I run for a mile or two, it loosens up and the pain I experience with each step goes away. Unfortunately, that still leaves the first mile or two to get through. By our regrouping point in the park at 1.6 miles, I was starting to feel better.
Stopping in the heat, some sweat naturally started dripping into my eyes. I wiped it away as we started running again, but the sweat in my right eye was really stinging. I said as much to the group. Someone asked if I had sunscreen on. No, I didn’t. That’s odd — plain sweat doesn’t usually sting my eyes that much! The more I tried to wipe it off my face and eyelid, the worse it got. I couldn’t even open my eye at this point — when I did, the stinging was overwhelming.
The epiphany hit me. With a laugh I explained to the others: “I chopped some jalapeños just before the run… and didn’t wash my hands.” One of my running buddies joked that he “thought they taught you about that sort of thing at Ivy League Universities.” (I went to Cornell, a third-tier Ivy. He’s jealous.) I explained that the curriculum was generally more theoretical than practical.
Understand, now, I was still running with my right eye closed. In fact, I had to keep it closed for a mile and a half. Take it from me, a mile and a half is a long way to go with one eye scrunched closed. Once in a while I’d try a test opening and feel searing pain, or squirt some water in there from my bottle, or wipe myself with my shirt. When I eventually regained binocular vision, I felt as if I had been born again. Born again with a bright red eye.
The next two miles were an almost placid perfectly normal battle with the heat. They could have been worse. With about a mile left to go, though, a new stream of sweat must have made it into my eye after running through some jalapeño oils, because the stinging hit again. Thankfully it only lasted a few hundred yards this time.
It wasn’t really the worst run ever: I finished it uninjured and without need of medical attention. I’ll be laughing about it soon. Three years from now, at the latest.