I never played a team sport except when I had no choice at school, preferred the dingy high-school weight room to the track, and was more likely to be found smoking cigarettes and doing Russian homework at Bonducci’s, the cafe in town where a motley crew would congregate in the afternoons, than on a track, trail, or field. One year, I even finagled my way into getting P.E. credit by taking an evening Aikido class at a local dojo.
In fact, I didn’t own an actual pair of sneakers until I was 18, in college in New York City, when I inadvertently discovered that running + Doc Martens = shin splints. Not long after that first impulsive run in Riverside Park, though, I bought my first pair of proper running shoes. I’ve run on and off for the 22 years since.
Even when I’m not writing much, I am a writer. It’s in the way see and perceive and interpret and integrate my experience. Can I say the same of running? During periods when I’ve stopped, when I’ve lost the rhythm of lacing up and heading out to run two (at times over the years, three, occasionally four or five, one amazing ten-miler in D.C., and once–once!–13.1) miles, I am not so sure. To be a runner, doesn’t one have to run?
But as a base line, or a bass line–a steady beat–I always come back, whether the hiatus lasts weeks or months or even years. At some point, the need to move overpowers the inertia of not moving.
This past week, I ran two miles, five days in a row. Post-coffee, pre-shower and work. My pace errs on the side of very slow. No headphones, no music, no fanfare, no frills. I was actually a little scared about running after months of not running. Scared as in, “How bad is it, doc?”
What a relief, when it wasn’t SO bad. Everything in moderation. Ha. Even moderation. That little p.s. to the saying is more my natural pace.
To not begin at all would be to neglect myself, a set-up for forgetting who I am and how I want to love and live. To be ambitious would also be a set-up, for falling off the map of staying calm and slow and steady in the midst of so much motion. In other words, two miles a day helps me keep my shit together.
In a few weeks, the Book of Life will yawn open, as it does every year when the leaves change and the nights and mornings get chilly. It’s the time of t’shuvah, atonement, or more accurately translated in my experience of it: Returning. Turning back, to assess who and how and where I’ve been, asking forgiveness and making amends, clearing my heart before beginning again.
This reflective season also happens to be insanely busy with an unexpected move, the semester starting up at work, the beginning of a new school year for three kids under our roof, and a wedding. My wedding! It’s like some kind of weird cosmic encouragement: You can do it all. You don’t have to do it all. Just return. And so two miles a day it is. For myself, for everyone near and dear to me, I’ll run.