Today I ran. Literally. I went for my power walk as usual, soaking in the beautiful warmth of another California Indian summer, listening to the birds chatter loudly in the trees as they make their plans to head south. Do you think all that chatter is the birds debating who should be the leader as they fly South?
I vote for Fred.
Fred? He can't find his own nest. I think Linda should be our leader today.
Linda... Linda... oh yeah the bird with the gray spot on her wing.
Yeah that's her.
Linda, good choice.
No, sorry, Linda smacked into a window yesterday and broke her neck.
This is the kind of thing I think about while walking purposefully down the street, arms swinging to the rhythm of my legs.
After half a mile I turned the corner heading back to home and a little voice popped through my imaginings and said, You should run. Run? I don't run. I have a bad knee, a souvenir from when I went backpacking and fell down the side of a ridge with my heavy pack on, only stopping myself from going over a cliff by jamming my leg against a boulder, which strained the knee so bad I hobbled for two months. When I run I can feel my ligaments pulling against the scar tissue. Not pleasant.
How do you know it still does that? When was the last time you ran?
Hmmm... three...no four...five years ago. I think.
You should try and see how your knee feels. If it hurts, stop.
Pondering this idea, I reached a three block section of my route just before the final turn toward home. What the hell? I started to run. Not fast, but a decent pace just a little faster than my walking pace. My legs propelled me forward and my arms fell into the rhythm naturally and I suddenly remembered running like this when I was 12 years old.
I loved to run back then. I loved the freedom and the speed, that sense that you could outrun any trouble that might come at you. I ran all over town, just because I could, not caring what I was wearing or where I was going. Feeling my heart pound and my legs hit the pavement was all I needed to feel strong.
Half way down the street, I suddenly realized it had been 30 years since I ran like that. Oh my God, this hurts! I can't breath! Why am I getting nauseous? Who's bright idea was this anyway? My breath rasped through my nose and mouth and my heart pounded against my ribs as if demanding to know what the hell I was doing. But my legs kept the pace and I refused to stop until I reached the end of the street.
Against my body's protests, I made it and then slowed my pace back to a brisk walk toward home. I was almost to my house before I could catch my breath again.
How's your knee? that little voice in my head asked.
I tuned into my right knee as I walked, waiting to feel that pulling on scar tissue pain. Nothing. My knee was fine. No pain, no ache, not even a twinge. Weird. I figured there should be something to remind me I injured it.
You hurt it 22 years ago. Maybe you're healed.
Maybe I am. But if I am, I don't have any excuse not to run again, other than the fact that running feels awful and only psycho masochists love it. I really doubt I'll ever do it again.
Or will I?