Against all evidence I believe that somewhere – deep deep inside of myself I am a runner. I make the mistake of indulging this delusion around the same set of the following circumstances: a minimum of several weeks without having performed routine exercise, usually after a large meal, especially if the dog is amped up and needs to run and finally when I have recently purchased hot jamz on I-tunes. When any combination of these factors manifest – I head for the hills – except we live in Florida so I actually head for the flat asphalt.
It has rained for two days, but tonight after dinner the sun broke through in all of its fury. The streets seethed, hissing its waterlogged bloat back up at me on my very first strides and I knew I was doomed. But on I trudged. I have run the same route many times in varying degrees of humidity at different weights and stages of my life and each time I return after an absence all the other times come to mind.
Tonight, as I ran I thought of the first time I made it all the way down the street. I thought of what a triumph that felt like and how stiff my muscles were the following day. I could picture myself as a very new mother on an afternoon when my grand idea of line drying clothes and getting the baby out in the stroller dissolved into an unrelenting downpour and a delightedly soaked baby. I recalled who I was when I racked up daily 5k’s for a short time. They were all still me.
I have run without music – I think only twice and it was not pleasant. Those were the longest miles I have ever clocked and I am confident they were the slowest. I tend to get swept up in the music fully lip-synching whatever I have playing, complete with what I imagine the artist looks like as they sing it. I should be embarrassed, but I am not, mainly because I forget that real people can see me as they pass me by. One time, right after I bought a brand new pair of sneakers, I took the dog for an early evening run. I tripped over a crack in the cement and ate it hard, ripping my pants and skinning my hands and knees. I just sprung back up and kept going – until I noticed a friend slowly drive by and wave – I waved back and smiled, hoping she hadn’t caught my fall. When I got home I assessed the damage and it was pretty bad – but nothing compared to my bruised ego. I texted her to ask if she’d seen me fall – she hadn’t – she thought I was stopping to tie my shoe, but her mother who was in the car had. I still cringe a little thinking about it, but what I remember most was that Ray Charles was singing “Hit the Road, Jack” to me at the time and I felt like I was in on the joke.
I looked around as I ran tonight at the houses and the people they held close. Many have come and gone on our street. I have watched signs go up on numerous lawns announcing a new baby, a birthday party, a high school graduation or homecoming. I have seen the garage sale signs quickly followed by for sale posts. With new owners, I have seen buildings flush with fiery shades of Burnt Sienna, alongside older homes paling in their decades old Taupe. I wait for the cactus flowers to appear at the end of the street and for the frangipanis to bloom all over.
I have grown to really love our street, even though it doesn’t have sidewalks and people drive a little too fast at times on it. It has a comforting predictability – much like me attempting to run and I have to wonder if someone looks kindly on me each time I start up again. Yes, I will hit cracks and I will fall, but you can’t keep a good girl down…for long. Here’s to trying new things and trying old things and above all to trying our best.