Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thinking After Running

After a long lay-off from running, I went out with friends today for six miles. Yes, it would have been smarter to go shorter or to run a few times on my own before going out on a group run, but I haven't been willing to get myself out of bed in the cold to run for a few weeks and the opportunity to run with friends seemed about the only thing that would get me out there. Besides, I miss being around these people, all of whom are among my favorites on the planet, and what the hell, why not jump in the deep end?

So tonight, I'm tired, really tired and thinking that eight o'clock sounds like a perfect time to go to bed. That's not the worst thing in the world. Not even close.

As I think back on the run, several things come to mind and they seem worth repeating here. I offer them in the order they come back to me rather than trying to write the chronological travelogue of the run.

First, as we were climbing the second hill in Oakwood Cemetery and I was saying how dead I was, Jess said that in a month I would be up in the front group laughing my way up the hill instead of gasping. She said I would be back to the way I was last summer when the Oakwood hills didn't seem to matter to me even a little. I was about to say something to the contrary, but then realized the kindness she was doing me and nodded. Given a month or so of running, I probably will be climbing hills without too much of a struggle. I know that. She knew that. There's no honor in denying it. Instead, it's an insult to her and me. I'm hoping that she took my nod and silence as assent and gratitude. If not, maybe she'll read it here.

On top of that, there was Kristin inviting me along for what can only be described as her run. She would deny it, but she's the leader of our group and it's not because she wants or needs to be the leader but because she thinks about the other people in our group more than her own training. She just wants everyone to be out running, feeling good, talking, and making our world's better. After we had finished the run over at Barry Park, she asked if I was walking or wanted to jog easily with her toward our houses. How could I resist? I was pretty damn tired, but it always feels good to run with Kristin. She doesn't let it be anything but good. I tried not to complain and to keep up. It's the least I can do in the face of such friendship.

Back in Oakwood, there was a great moment when Jess and I got to listen to Chris go off about idiots on Facebook. There's nothing much more fun than this sort of thing from him, when he swears every fourth word and gets to the heart of foolishness, bigotry, and hypocrisy in a short phrase. This was at the bottom of the hill that Jess got me over, but Chris's comments and Jess's laughter made it easier. I would have laughed harder had I had a bit more oxygen pumping through my system.

I got to do most of the beginning of the run with Chris which isn't at all unusual. We've been doing most everything together for over forty-four years and just running next to each other is enough to make most everything in my world good. We talked about the new camera he just bought and him trying it out on his wife's flowers. We talked about whatever came into our minds. I don't remember half of it because it didn't matter. It's enough just to be around him and have the entirety of my past all there in our friendship.

So, even though it absolutely kicked my ass and has left me a shattered shell of a man for the rest of the day, it was a great run. (And I may be exaggerating its effect on me, but play along just because.)

One last thing about it: I like for a run to be meditative, but it's tough to focus on breathing when I'm laboring as hard as I was today. Still, there was one moment, during a long downhill, when my body said, "you're all set now, just let it go," and I did. My body knew just what to do, my brain focused on the feel and sound of my feet on the pavement, and every single thing was right with the world.

To that, I say, write on.