This is the message I sent to my coach back in Portland after the amazing “life-giving” run I went on post-injury. It seriously put the wind back in my sails. I was just coming off a long break from injury and feeling really defeated and out of sorts. This run put the life back in me.
“It was night fall and post-dinner, post-watching my, “go-to-when-I’m-really-bored-movie.” There I sat, in a new city, by myself at 8:30pm on a Friday with nothing to do and no one to see (don’t I sound cool?) So… I thought, “I’ll go on a run at the Rose Bowl. I need to give the foot a try.”
There are tons of fields at the Rose Bowl. One in particular is really big, nearly 1000m around. It is typically used for recreational sports, it’s open to the public and barren at night. The field sits right in front of the main stadium entrance. At night the stadium’s “Rose Bowl” sign is lit. And for a giant glowing sign, it really is beautiful! When I arrived at the park I put on my barely used trainers and started off into the quiet night.
There were other people out there running, but they stayed on the paved loop. I had the entire space to myself. I felt safe amidst solitude. The moon was big in the sky, large and gleaming– bright enough to avoid any rolled ankles but soft lit as to not intrude on the anonymity that a night run provides. My shoes let me feel the earth beneath my feet. The grass was cold and thick and cushy, but stable. I ran three loops around the field and found myself warmed up and aching to run fast. I just wanted to feel quick for a moment. It had been so long since I had done anything faster than a jog-pace. In my head I thought, “What can they hurt? It will only be a couple. I need to keep some sharpness anyways, right?”
That was all it took.
I took off diagonally across the large field. I slowly counted to 30 and then eased off. I jogged for a 20 count and then shifted back into a faster pace and covered the rest of the field’s expanse. My best guess is that the field is between 300-400 meters across. There I was, two strides done … “Maybe I’ll do two back. Four strides is okay, right? I mean, I would rather do 6… but 6 might be asking for trouble since I am barely back. Now 10 strides, I wish I could do 10… but not today, nope that would be certifiably stupid, without question. I’ll just go back the way I came, jog at the field’s mid-point, catch my breath, then close the door on number four and call it a night.”
Ceremonially, I HAD to touch the farthest tree in front of me before turning around. I reached out, tagged the trunk and whipped around to begin my last two strides. I let the slight slope in the grass carry me into a faster pace and began my stride out.
I didn’t count this time I just ran. When I got the middle portion of the field, where I had rested before, I didn’t stop running. I increased the pace, kicked it into another gear. I felt my knees rising, my feet striking the soft grass, my lungs hinting of a burn. The air whipped past my hands, my ears heard the “whoosh” of the passing evening. The cool, quietness and solitude engulfed me.
I felt amazing.
I ran the entire way across the field, paying special attention to the footing- because you know, that would not have been a good time to trip. The magic and joy and power I felt was “Quenton Cassidy-esque.” I got the the corner of the field, ran through an imagined finish-line and put my hands on my hips, walking, shoulders back, chest high. For at least a moment, experiencing the rush of accomplishment and satisfaction. I pulled my yoga mat out of the car, stretched for a few minutes and went home.
I think that run put the life back in me.”
Rereading this reflection I can’t help but feel the joy all over again. My Quenton Cassidy reference refers to the main character in a set of novels that are cult-classics for competitive runners, Once a Runner and Return to Carthage.
This excerpt from Once a Runner explains,
“Running to him was real, the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.”
In July I am bringing running to a group of orphaned former child-soldiers in Northern Uganda. Please help support my cause by donating here. Each dollar goes a long way (all the way to Africa in fact!) Blessings my friends. Happy running to you.
(Hi, I am the PayPal button Kelsey keeps talking about.)