The first sign that something had changed passed me in the form of some young guy wearing what looked like skateboarder apparel. I felt like I was running pretty hard, and he didn’t look like he was running all that fast, but pass me by he did.
Then a guy pushing a stroller passed me, and he looked pretty fit and all. . .but did I already say he was pushing a stroller? Then the lady running with her dog passed me, and I have never been passed by anyone running with a dog. And then the guy pushing the stroller stopped to give his brat some juice (“mango and pear, it’s your favorite!”), and within 100 yards he had already caught up with me and passed me again. I’m sure those two bastards did that on purpose to humiliate me.
I know, I know–it’s not a race. I tell myself that all the time. I remind myself that it is particularly not a race if the other guy doesn’t know it is a race. But I have a suspicion that the other guy is also thinking precisely the same thing. I have seen that look in the pool: you’re swimming your laps in your own little lane, but you can feel something aggressive, focused, flowing out of the lane next to you. And then you roll to your right to take a breath, and for an instant you lock eyes through tiny goggles with the guy next to you and know that he has been feeling precisely the same thing. And the race is on.
I’m running again! I stopped completely for a couple of months trying to get better at karate, on top of minimal running prior to that due to a slowly but inevitably crumbling body, but now it’s time to get back at it. I had thought way back when I began karate that the two activities would be complimentary–running is all about moving forward in a straight line, while karate is all lateral movement. Turns out that theory was totally wrong and just plain stupid, just like absolutely all of my theories. But now that I’ve figured out what needed to be fixed to improve my karate I’m hoping to allow those two uses of my body to reach an understanding. It’s going to be sort of like training two dogs that hate each other to become friends: start small, allow brief moments of mutual discovery building to a crescendo of pain and violence, then give it a break until tempers have cooled. I’m excited.
Missing something that was such a big part of my life is like waking from a dream, and immediately feeling the memory of it draining away–I was on a beach, and . . . who was there? I remember we were going somewhere and it all just felt beautiful. I miss running down River Road in the fog, alone at the half-way turnaround for their 11-miler; I miss running the Trail of Lights at night, faster than I’ve ever run before, through a tunnel of many-colored Christmas lights just to win a stupid hat. I miss it all.