Sometimes I feel like I should write about people, other things, besides wanting to run. But, as Thoreau wrote in Walden, “I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.” In some ways, I’m stuck with my own story so I might as well make the best of it.
Anyway, though I’ve made probably a hundred declarations (on this blog and to anyone who’s asked me) about my plans to wait until I run again, last week, for the second time recently, I found myself running. This time it was six long stretches of about 150 yards each on the grass next to the Bradley University softball field in Laura Carpenter Park in Peoria. My left knee and everything connected to it felt weak, but there was no pain as I ran and it was the best running I’ve done yet. Even though I stopped myself short of real exertion, still being cautious, I could feel my heart rate going up, my body beginning to work, and I got a glimpse of that feeling of running I’ve been longing for.
When I set out to the park that morning, I didn’t have plans to run, only to walk. Why did I run? I’m not sure. On one hand, I kind of felt like Forrest Gump, who explained his epic run back and forth across the country with the simple words, “I just felt like running.” On the other hand, it wasn’t simple at all and I had countless reasons why I wanted to run, many of which I’ve already spelled out.
And while it’s true I had no plans to run that day, it had been on my mind the few days beforehand as my lovely perfect wife, my son HH, and I drove to Oxford, Mississippi to deliver him for this first year of college at Ole Miss. Driving long distances always puts me in the mood for running. I can’t look past the side of the highway without imagining myself running down every country road I see, over the fairways of the golf courses up, even and down the long, straight rows of cornfields. When we got to Oxford and Ole Miss, I was impressed—it’s a charming town and a beautiful campus. But I was constantly pointing out to my son places he could run: on the sidewalks through campus, in the shade of the trees by The Grove, and “that nice long stretch along Jackson Avenue would be a good place for hill repeats,” I told him.
I’m sure he’ll do some running while he’s there, but I’m also sure that designating routes was low on his list of priorities as he was taking in the scenes that will be the backdrop for the next chapter of his life. I think I was talking about it incessantly to make up for the fact that I couldn’t run there myself, as it’s one my favorite ways to experience a new place: on foot, at about 8 ½ miles per hour, breathing in the local air, and taking in the details of a new place. I’ve got the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of runs from Seattle, St. Louis, New York City, Boston, Monterey, Mexico, Minneapolis, Puerto Rico, and just about every place I’ve been in the last 2o years always fresh in my mind.
By the time my lovely perfect wife and I got to Peoria on our return trip, besides the fact that I’d spent well over a thousand miles looking out the car window wishing I could run, my body was stiff and achy from all the motionlessness of the trip. I knew a walk that morning, before the final 4 hour stretch home would help. But once I got to the park, I could feel that I wanted more, that I wanted to run. So I ran. And it didn’t hurt. And it hasn’t since, at least not any more than it had beforehand.
So, while I still think it’s a good idea to wait to embark on any sort of running regiment, I’ve decided to change my view of it. Instead of avoiding running completely, I’m going to view it in kind of the same way I view eating meat or dairy. I haven’t written a lot about this, but my lovely perfect wife and I are true believers in our vegan diet. I think we feel better and are healthier because of it. Now just about every meal we cook for ourselves is vegan (even when the kids wanted their good old spaghetti, I made a vegan version–who needs ground beef when you can just add Grape Nuts instead?). However, we’re not obsessive about it. We eat fish sometimes, and if circumstances put us in a place where there are no non-vegan options, we’ll dig in, and as long as this is the exception, not the rule, we’re confident we’ll still enjoy the benefits of our vegan diet.
And sometimes we’ll even go out of our way to eat meat–I don’t know if it’s to satisfy cravings, so it doesn’t loom too large in our minds, or because we’ve been conditioned to see a delicious slab of meat as a requirement for a ceremonial feast. Whatever the reason, on our way down to Oxford, we stopped for lunch at the famous Interstate BBQ in Memphis and ordered a tableful of ribs. Though not as good as my brother in law’s, they were delicious.
And just like I believe that small doses of meat like this won’t hurt me, I’m confident small doses of running won’t either. So the point I’m making today is that running for me is like eating barbequed ribs? I guess so. Thoreau didn’t say everything had to make perfect sense. And though I’m not ready to make running a part of my routine, I’m not going to hold myself back if circumstances or my mood or body compel me to run. Though it may not be the best thing for me, I think I’ve healed enough that it’s not going to make things worse. I’ll still spend most of my energy on the bike, in the pool, and in the weight room, and I’ll be happy in this state of making progress, which is the best way to see things, because as Thoreau said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land.” Of course, I agree with him about that, but I also disagree. Because for me there is another land—the land of running. And I hope that’s where I’m headed.