Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Little Old Lady on My Morning Run

It's been awhile since I've written... I know. You may have thought my blog was long abandoned for Twitter. That wouldn't have been a poor assumption. Little blurbs of 140 characters each has been oddly a better fit for me recently. Though brevity has never been my strong point - if you've ever heard me try to tell a story, you're probably nodding - I guess I just haven't had a lot I've felt like sharing recently. And by "recently" I mean "in months."

I've always written this blog as more of a journal for myself than anything else. I don't really caring who else, if anyone, reads it. I like to chronicle interesting things that happen or random thoughts about random things when I can formulate them into substantial enough of a bundle to make sense. My thinking has been kind of scattered recently. I mean, I think it's been scattered my whole life... I've never been a very linear thinker... but recently it's been really all over the place. I guess because, honestly, from day to day, I don't know what I'm really doing or where I'm going in life. Overall I'm happy, but I often feel like I'm just sort of floating, along for the ride. I'm thinking this feeling will eventually pass. One day I'll settle and figure things out and "get a future." Someday. Until then...

The reason I'm writing tonight is because I've almost finished reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. This book has taken me forever to read because 1) I read more digitally nowadays -- blogs, news sites... I love the feeling of hardcopy and it's very unlikely that I'll ever own a Kindle or similar, but that's just how it's worked out. and 2) Like all the Murakami books I've read, it's nice to savor. Read a little bit at a time. Put it down. Think about it. Savor it. Like dark chocolate.

Anyway, this post is going to be short because it's after midnight and I'm planning to get up and run in about 5 hours. I may write a longer review of Murakami's book later, but I wanted to jot this down for posterity before I hit the hay:

Murakami's book hit close to home. I've never really considered myself a runner, despite successfully finishing my first 10-mile road race this past weekend (!). Nope, not a runner. Someone who runs occasionally? Yes. A runner? Not really. I'm not really sure what makes someone a "real" runner... but I'm not it. Maybe runners are competitive? Am I competitive? Sure, with some things. But not with running. I've never and will probably never be a superstar runner. I don't need to win age group awards or run Western States. I'm happy enough just getting out there on the pavement for awhile. It's time alone, time to think. Like, Murakami, I don't really know what I think about when I run. It's kind of like dreaming... if someone asked me right in the moment, I may be able to tell them, but after the fact, who knows? Like dreams that are lost forever the minute you wake up, a lot of things get left on the road. Problems, troubles, stresses, frustrations... A lot of them just get left out there after a run, like leaves and footprints... and that's a good thing. I'd like to think I've left a few ideas for the next great novel and inventions that would have made me millions out there as well, which isn't such an awesome thing, but, hey, it happens.

Wow, I'm getting really tired. Where was a going with this? Oh, I wanted to talk about my morning run. I may have talked about why morning runs are special in a previous post, but I'm not sure and am too tired/lazy to look right now. Seriously, I'm fading fast and need to turn the lights off... If I have never talked about the special-ness of pre-dawn runs, I may eventually, but not now. Now, I want to mention my morning run "friend." Every time I run my "regular loop" (as opposed to the "DC loop" I sometimes run) in the early mornings before work, I see this woman. I used to see her five days a week when I was running that often, before I got my stress fracture. Now that I only run in the morning on two week days -- usually Tuesdays and Thursdays, I only see her then. This little old lady must go for a walk every day. I always see her walking in the opposite direction I'm running, on the same side of the road, when I'm about 3.5 miles in, shooting downhill on Wisconsin Avenue. She's usually between the entrance to Somerset and Saks Jandel on the right, just before I get to a small hill that goes over a little stream and is just long enough for me to hope the next walk light is red so I can stop for a second and catch my breath. I can almost pace with her. If I see her higher up the road, I know I'm going fast or running late... usually the latter. If I see her lower, I know I'm going slower or left the house a bit early... in this case, usually the former. If I don't see her at all, I worry. She's pretty old and always walks by herself. I worry that, if I don't see her, something's happened to her. I pay extra attention on my next run, looking out for her, making sure she's okay, still walking. I've been running by her for over a year now and I think she recognizes me. Sometimes she'll wave, other times she'll just smile a bit. I think it depends on the weather. I get more of a wave when it's warmer.

Anyway, it's weird. I've never spoken a word to this woman with the exception of maybe a "good morning" here and there, though I feel like I've gotten to know her during my runs. I could say the same for the business man at the bus stop, or the cyclist shooting down Connecticut Avenue towards D.C., or the slender female runner I always pass going the opposite direction on Bradley Lane.

When I had a stress fracture and couldn't run for a few months, I missed seeing these people. There's a nice camaraderie in those early morning hours. I wonder if they missed me, too, in my absence... Did they notice I wasn't around, running by, a human mile marker? I'd like to think they did because, truthfully, as much as I like running, sometimes there are days I just don't want to get out of bed. I run through every excuse in the book and then some (It's cold; it's dark; I worked out hard yesterday; I'm going to have a long day at work, I should sleep in...) before bribing myself (just get dressed and go stand on the sidewalk... if you still don't want to run, you don't have to...). But the real thing that gets me out of bed? My morning friends... especially that little old lady on Wisconsin. Weirdly, it sometimes makes my day to see her.

12:41 and the morning run is approaching fast. I'm off to bed. Night!


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Justin said...

I just saw this and I think your description of being in a sort of "dream state" while running is so true. Likewise, in the course of my morning runs, I cross paths with a few of my "regulars." There are Hasidic women who power walk by me and I somehow got them to wave back when I wave at them (I thought they weren't allowed to have contact with men who aren't their husband, but maybe that's false (?)). Then I have the Chinese people who do Tai Chi/calisthenics who wave too... It's kind of like an early morning exercise bond!

I have to look into this book... I think I'd enjoy it. I also just realized I'll miss my multicultural Brooklyn exercisers when I move into Manhattan!