Today hubs and I went for a walk on the trails where I used to run. We took the long route, the one I used to run every other day when I was running often. It felt good to be back on the trails, even though I was moving at a much slower pace.
It made me think back to how I felt when I was in peak condition, how being on the trails felt when I was a “runner.” I remember the exhilaration. The feeling that it was my trail. I owned that stretch of land and I paid for it in gallons upon gallons of sweat.
I remember how, for the first part of the run, my head would pull out that one thing that was bothering me and work on it for a while. I would hold imaginary conversations with people in my head, work on problems, and resolve conflicts all on my own while I was running. I worked out a lot of issues that way and came back feeling cleansed.
I also remember how during the second half of a run I couldn’t do that anymore. The second half became about the bargaining and the head games it takes to get to the end when really, stopping right now seems so much better. Just one more telephone pole. Anyone can run one more telephone pole. If you just make it to the next telephone pole you can make the rest. You don’t get to walk until you get to the turnoff, those are the rules. You know that. You can make it.
As I was walking I remembered all the parts of the trail, as it is indelibly etched into my physical memory. I ran that trail so many times I know every last part of it, even though it changes all the time because it’s the desert and the only thing that changes more than the dessert is water. There was a time when I could, and did, run that trail in the dark.
I would get to a particularly sandy part and think oh yeah, this was the hardest part to get through. This is where my shoes filled with sand and it felt like running in slow motion. Then I’d get to a hard-packed area, or the graded road that used to lead to an old pit back in the hills, and I would remember how I could run the fastest in those areas with my iPod tuned to the fastest songs in my playlist and the wind at my back.
I walked by the two different places I’ve seen rattlesnakes, and the different areas where I’ve seen coyotes. Once a coyote crossed the trail right in front of me, just like they run out in front of the cars on the road. That made me stop in my tracks, unsure if it was a good idea to have him behind me or if, since he was alone, I was ok. There were times I saw them on my early morning runs when they were not alone, when they were hunting in a pack, and it was a lot more unsettling.
I remember the wind. In the desert there’s a reason they can’t remember your name and it’s because the wind blows it away. During the first part of my run the wind was always at my back, but on the way home I had to fight it the whole way. At times I was sure I was standing still, it was blowing so hard. The wind gives and it takes, though, because even though it can be like running against a wall, it keeps you cooler and drier. Oh how I’ve cursed and thanked that wind at the same time.
Friday I’m starting the surgeries that are hopefully going to get me back on that trail. I am nervous and hopeful at the same time, and I think the biggest nerves stem not from the pain that is sure to come but from the hopes. I am afraid that my hopes for future dates with my trail will not be fulfilled and that I will be relegated to walking it. Or worse, that I will only be able to drive by and remember how it used to be, when I made that trail my own and we learned how to get along.
And that will be the saddest thing of all.