31 January 2007

Just Start Again: A San Diego Reflection

So here I am in San Diego, sick, supposed to fly home but staying over in the land of sunshine and dwindling water resources. Fun because Charlotte is here for work, but bad also because who at work will believe it when I tell them that I couldn't fly home from San Diego on Super Bowl Sunday because I was sick. Right. Still, here in the Residence Inn in Carlsbad, I have the time to ruminate a tad on why I am trying to get back to running.

Life and age are funny things. They creep up on you. Ever since I stopped running with any regularity or goal a few years ago, they seem to be creeping up on me faster and faster. Which means I'm going slower and slower.

I remember a run that I had perhaps six years ago, running through Rockefeller State Park Preserve just outside Tarrytown on the Hudson River on a sunny, chilly October afternoon. It was my last long run before the New York Marathon. Now the preserve is really quite hilly from mellow meadow to a steep pitch you swear you should have a safety line to run down or up. The only semi-flat path is the one around the lake in the middle of the Park (a lake the Rockefellers built so they would have one to picnic by...) and even then the path slopes and rolls up and down around the duck filled waters.

And on this day I ran and ran and ran. Up those hills, across little fast flowing streams, leaves scrunching under my running shoes, sweat pouring off me. There was one hill in particular, that I'd always had trouble making it up. I always ended up huffing and puffing. Oh, I'd make it but it was a "just barely" and "I think I can, I think I can" kind of thing. If I'd owned a heart rate monitor in back then I probably would have scared myself into having a heart attack by the time I got to the top.

But this day, at the end of two hours, I soared. I reached the top in a smooth segue of heart, soul and breath, and as I rounded the top and made the crest of the hill, the Hudson lay glittering before me. The wind and the sun and the river all clapped their hands and twinkled with the glitter of sun and swirling red, yellow and orange leaves. I can still smell how the wind was, the smell of earth, and decaying leaves and season more beautiful for its fading. I don't know that I have ever felt so alive as I did in that moment. That sense of connection between body, mind, soul and world. A bit of what the Buddhist call "Big Mind" I suspect. I've missed that connection since I stopped running regularly, that feeling one's mortality pumping strongly in your chest. Of knowing its strength and weakness. That it can carry you to the top of the hill but not beyond your numbered days. Its a good thing to know. Life that is. That's what "running for your life" really means. That's why I've started running again through the trails around my house here in Evergreen. Its a tough slog right now, I'll be honest. It's not much fun. The altitude is a killer, the extra twenty pounds are a knap sack I'd rather not carry. Nor the years for that matter. But its coming back a bit.

Yesterday when I ran across the Elk Meadow and up into the Bergen Hills, here and there the path was covered with pack snow, it was cold and damp and the sun flitted from pine branch to pine branch, here and there I could see it, that Big Mind. Once or twice I felt it poke my soul. "Big Mind happy to have this old runner back chasing it", it laughed deeply and silently.

And this old runner, well, this old runner is glad to be running for his life again.

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