Monday, February 22, 2016

The Return: A Smidgen of Runner Prose

My Jeep rocks from side to side as I navigate over the potholes in the gravel parking lot. I haven't been away for more than 10 days, yet the forest beyond the cars is no longer there. Bulldozers are haphazardly parked in the orange clay amid fallen trees. I stop to read the announcement about how this improvement will link the ugly, polluted sidewalk along the highway to my oasis.

Soon the crowds that swell on first spring day will become even denser. And my quiet, winter runs will be a distant memory. The children learning to ride their bicycles will meander across the path. Teenagers and seniors will hold hands, creating memories and conversing about memories created. Pretty girls with designer sunglasses will sweat harder than they prefer and young men will run shirtless at the first opportunity.

But today, the tree-lined boardwalks are mine alone.

The heavy rain has dissipated into a steady drizzle. It is too muggy for February. I am wearing a tank top and shorts and am comfortable even in the rain. 5 days have passed since I last ran--it feels like an eternity. My legs are itching to move before I reach the trailhead and I start my Garmin as I fall into stride.

As I turn to go under the bridge, I dodge rain pouring from above and hop over the puddles down below. I look up to see the familiar path ahead. The same creek to my right, the same curve up ahead at mile 0.3, and the same bare trees I see every February on the Greenway. It is as comfortable as the steady, unencumbered motion of my running.

Everything shakes out easily into place.

My legs move effortlessly down the path without a care to my lungs, still on the mend. Even with my earbuds tucked deeply in my ears, I can hear the light rasping of my breath. It seems like the perfect day to ease back into a few easy miles. But my restraint is weak. As I dodge the slippery planks of wood filling slowly with water, my pace intensifies.

At first, my stride lengthens as I realize the easy flexibility of my body from a few days off. Then, my cadence increases as I feel the joy of speed. When I reach the marsh just before the first mile marker, I know there is no hope of holding back.

It is time to soar.

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