I like running; but I don’t love running. I previously ran to burn the endless energy my body created like a runaway generator. I ran to convert stress into sweat and pain. I ran because it felt good to be one second faster today than yesterday. But that is the past.
Now, I run because I’m afraid of not being able to run. I feel young and capable and alive when my feet contact the sidewalk and the sidewalk pushes me forward another step. But no longer do I bound from the house and sprint away for that first blazing mile.
Mile 1 is now slow and steady. I think about my feet, my legs, my arms; loosening joints and muscles and slowly building into a reasonable pace. There are twinges of pains and twitches of muscles that must be extracted from the body. Mile 2 is where the mind starts to drift. Thoughts about tomorrow’s calendar and the balance of the to-do list. Reflections about the nice words I received from a friend, and the hug I owe my wife. Mile 3 is the fantasy football mile. For the love of all things green and peaceful, why do I still play this ridiculous game? Two running backs…the better is a game time decision, but the worst plays in the early game. Who do I pick? Who do I pick? Oh, I know it doesn’t matter, but I hate losing to those other mouthy guys. Mile 4, the mind drifts back to the body. The legs are tiring earlier than years previous, but I know that age should offer endurance as a replacement for speed. So I ponder whether to pursue mile 5. Yes, I pursue.
Mile 5 is the mailbox mile. “There is no way I can make it up this hill,” I tell myself, “but I can make it to the yellow mailbox.” And then to the fire hydrant. And to another mailbox. I see another runner, approaching from the opposite direction. My stride is quicker and longer now. I steady my breath and return to my 1000 yard stare; I am the essence of agile, conditioned athlete. We approach. I glance, waiting for the right distance to acknowledge. At 15 feet, the other runner breaks focus and glances my direction. I give a half-wave and quick smile to my fellow pacer. He acknowledges with an abbreviated nod as we separate in opposite directions. After a few more seconds, I decide to walk to the next mailbox.
When the heat of summer passes, I’ll gain a few more seconds of speed and a mile or two of distance. But that, too, will be slowly consumed by the years ahead, which is perfectly fine and normal. I am grateful for each hour that I have both health and family to enjoy. I know that at anytime fate and circumstance can change everything that I now enjoy – either consciously or passively. So I’ll accept the slower miles and twitchy runs as nature’s way of giving me more time outdoors. I just wish those mailboxes weren’t so far apart.