This column was written before the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. I would like to dedicate my piece, on the joy of running, to all those who were killed or maimed in the event. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
I love this time of year.
It’s not because I can plant my vegetables. It’s not because I can see the trees blossoming, though those things are nice. It’s because I start running outside again.
When I was younger, I used to run outside whether there was rain, snow or even sleet. I reveled in my frozen lips and the tingling feeling I would get when my toes and fingertips defrosted from numb to normal.
Now, I tend to run on my treadmill in the winter, unwilling to brave the bitter wind. But, in some ways, that makes my spring-through-fall runs all the more enjoyable; I appreciate them.
For anyone who runs, this won’t sound insane. From the outside, it’s sometimes hard to understand the distance runner. Who would want to spend an hour pounding the pavement, alone, with nothing more than his or her thoughts? To put right foot in front of left, right foot in front of left — the same monotonous move during the course of the whole experience?
When I hit the roads in the morning, especially this time of year, the air is fresh and with just a hint of the night’s coolness. The sun has just come out, and the sky is shaded with blues and grays and pinks. The scents of the dew, the trees, the grass engulf me and invigorate me. It’s an “aha” moment — every time.
And I am free. With each step, my mind wanders from this to that. My best columns and story ideas happen when I run. My creativity flows, and I think about an orange lamp for the living room or a way that I can be more efficient with the laundry. I discover new reasons to love my kids and husband, or take out my aggression on the pavement instead of at my colleagues, friends or family (most of the time).
I sweat. I spit.
I wipe my nose on my sleeve.
I spend every morning re-mopping my house, trying to clean the mess from four children the night before. However, when I run, I love the scent of mud, when the rain leaves puddles on the track and the water splashes around my ankles. I hate when people give me flowers; the petals litter my table as they wilt. I love the colors of nature — the flowers and the bushes in their proper element.
And I push myself — hard. I like to feel the pain of going a little faster. Passing the threshold on the track is like doing it in the office or in life, in general. Never say “can’t.” Always go the extra mile; it pays off.
In my neighborhood there are the regulars. I wave “hi” to the older woman with the red hair as I charge up Labyrinth Road. I cross the street to avoid the Russian man with the Rottweiler. I stop for the H&S Bakery truck making its delivery to Pikesville High School. I slide past the Orthodox women talking together on the track.
Running is not about weight control, although it is fairly effective (especially since I sometimes really need that cheese pastry from 7-Eleven). But at this point, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll always have that little tummy roll from carrying my four children and my hips will likely never directly align with my torso.
I’ll probably never again hit an 18-minute 5K; I’m lucky I have time to run a 5K.
Even if I get arthritic knees, have to down three Advils, and to onlookers it becomes questionable whether I am walking or jogging, I will always mind my high school coach’s mandate: “Don’t stop! It’s OK to slow down, but never stop moving.”