Friday, August 29, 2008

Runs and rides

There was a time when I could run eight miles at a stretch; each mile faster than the last. I still lived in Chicago then and would run around entire neighborhoods. I would cross the Chicago river three, four, five times. I would run at sunset, through twilight and into the night. I ran along busy sidewalks, through forests of concrete pillars, over bridges, next to industrial yards, and through parks big and small. I ran through pouring rain. I ran over freshly fallen snow, and sometimes ice. I ran in wet heat and lung-numbing cold, my breath shooting from my mouth in a great pillar of steam.

On Wednesday, I went for my first serious run in over a year. Sure, I've been running. But I do not consider multiple times around the apartment complex, or even a trip to the barn and back, a serious run. No, a serious run should take you so far from home that beforehand, a part of you wonders what will happen if you have a horrible cramp in the middle of the run and are miles from home.

Such a run cuts you free of the protective bubble around what is familiar to you.

And so on Wednesday as the sun began its descent into the earth, I ran far from home. I ran west on Warrenville Road, north on Naperville Road, into the Danada forest preserve and equestrian center, emerged onto Leask, and continued south on Leask towards home. Altogether it was about 4.5 miles.

For a long time I have known that Limerick, and horses in general, are my muses. But sometime during that run, I remembered that running is also a muse. Not just any run, of course, but a serious run. When you're a couple miles from home and the sun is setting, you have no choice but to count on your legs and feet to carry you home, and quick. A cramp or a splint can leave you walking with a limp through the forest preserve, the sun gone, fear questioning your head. You begin to value yourself even more, and the further you run the more in awe you are of your own power. Drunk on endorphins and human speed, the creative mind begins to speculate.

I cannot use an iPod or whatever it is that people exercise with these days. Sometimes I listen to my footsteps, if I can hear them at the moment (I hear nothing over grass, but hear a lot on limestone or gravel). Sometimes my breathing becomes labored as I'm going up a hill or have been sprinting for some time. I'll listen to that. Sometimes I'm out when it's dark and the insects are so loud. I will listen to that. I will listen for cars as best as I can if I'm running near a road. I will strain to hear bicyclists if I'm on the trails. I never hear them though, and am always surprised when they go by me.

I love the runs to the barn. Leask Lane is such a hilly pain in the ass to run up and down, but the challenge is good. Unfortunately it's been getting dark earlier and earlier. There is a section of Leask close to the barn that has no sidewalks. I need to run on the lumpy grass and through ditches in that area. No problem when I can see, but in the dark of twilight I need to strain my eyes.

Limerick has been doing well; like myself, I am slowly bringing her back to shape. She's a little further than me from the ideal shape but she will no doubt be there by next spring.

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