Saturday, August 21, 2010

Trail Running

Humans were born to run.  That’s what I’ve read.  I’ve always had a bit of trouble truly believing that.  Now I’m not a bad runner.  In fact, I’m pretty quick on the short and middle distances.  Still, it’s painful for me.  I work at it, and it works at me.

I can imagine our ancestors rising over the African plain on thin, spindly legs, hands shielding eyes against the painful glare, watching carefully the movements of antelope that would feed the tribe in the coming days.  I can hear the gentle footfalls and deep, regular breathing as the hunters run, for hours, giving chase to a much quicker animal, that grows ever hotter, until at last it lays down and is caught.  I’ve always imagined that my clan showed up an hour or so later lugging all of the butchering equipment and carried the meat back to camp.

Today, my daughter and I went for a wonderful run on some trails near our house.  The scenery is magical – gentle grassy hills, dark forest, and floating bridges over dark, stale creeks.  The run began for me as always, stiff and painful, but then smoother and faster as my tight muscles relaxed into the moment.

“Look, Tumnus and Mr. Beaver,” my daughter exclaimed, and then dashed on ahead.

I smiled, feeling the joy of physical effort in this playful setting.  Soon, I was lost in my own thoughts.  Putting aside my watch and ongoing calculations of how much distance was left, I relaxed my muscles, let go of my painful knee, and let my breath come as it would – in rhythm with the effort, and in rhythm with the forest around me.    My stride changed, as I imagined my heavy shoes falling away to be replaced by thin leather pads.  My back straightened as I bore the weight of wooden bow and hunting tools.  My breath came quieter and deeper, and I forgot all but the moment, held firmly in this time by the gentle pain in my legs as my spirit communed with those that had run before me.  I think I’m becoming a believer.

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