After the disaster run that I will name "unrun" on Saturday, I was trepidatious, to say the least, for my next long run, the following day, on Sunday.
I was planning to abandon the track and its dragonflies, dogs, and the lone cyclist (odd) looping around and around. Plus my shoes were turning red.
I decided, under inviting clouds and temperatures below 25 degrees celsius, to tackle the long route to the Beach and back, and fit in a quick visit with my dad mid-run.
Let me just say this: my Sunday run kicked it.
As in: amazing.
As in: life-affirming.
As in: a religious experience. A conversion, if you will.
It started slow. I lumbered down to King Street, gamely warming up, hip-hop playlist blaring on the pod. And I admit this now--it was a slow, painful start. I wanted to stop.
King merges at River Street and morphs into Queen. I took Queen (the heaven of shade on the south side of the street) all the way to Coxwell (damn that messy construction!). Loped south to Lakeshore down Coxwell. Then I arrived (blessed shade again) at Kew Gardens/Ashbridges Bay, onto the trail which, at noon on a cloudy Sunday was not the normal treadmill of crowds it usually is.
It just felt like one of those days where the world is a friendly place. I passed rollerbladers in their 60s, flashing them smiles. I saw dads running alongside kids learning to ride bikes. Stopping to refill for water at a fountain, I noticed a number trees with small metal plaques commemorating lost loved ones. I paused to read a few names, calculate a few ages, and muse over the sayings on the small plaques. "Forever on the beach", "Always with us", "The sun shining down".....I'm paraphrasing but they were touching. It's hard, when you think about it, to summarize a life in a few scant words.
I thought the people who wrote these did a good job.
At last I reached the halfway point (8 km, 5 miles) at the foot of Balsam Avenue, where my mother lives, where we sprinkled some of my dad's ashes into Lake Ontario, so she could walk to visit with him whenever she wants to. I limped through the sand to the end of the jetty, stood on the concrete dock where we had sprinkled the ashes and had a strange feeling--I've always known how much my father loved water (he was a water sign, after all), but as I stood there it struck me--had he led me here, to this random apartment for my mother to live in? I want to believe that he did. How could she now be living in such a perfect place? One that is reasonable, that is clean, where the landlord is kind, and the neighbours are, for the most part, considerate and quiet? The thought mollifed me.
I stretched on a downed tree, drank some more water, and walked back to the trail, where two huffing-and-puffing cyclists asked me for directions and where to find water. I told them.
I turned my ipod back on and started back along the trail.
It was on the way back I hit a soaring runner's high, the endorphins coursing through me, my speed picking up. It happened a couple of times on the run back. I did 'the nod' to other runners. I spotted another woman runner, older than me, her eyes unshielded, struggling along. I gave her a wave, her eyes lighting up even as she loped along.
There were some slow points on the run back, I'm not going to sugar-coat it. And I have been icing my right foot since Monday evening. But...all in all--the kind of run that affirms a love of running, the kind of run where you keep going no matter what. Despite the run that you had the day before, cancelling it out, letting you start anew, go ten full miles, without that voice in your head screaming ... STOP.
I just kept going.
Linking over to a nice article about the decency of people (stuff like this is finding its way to me all the time lately, and I love it). Runners, to me, are as trustworthy as people with dogs--caring about something beyond themselves. Committing to it.
And the thing about American runners--they seem, when I'm running in Maine, to be just as friendly (if not more so). How can you not give a nod or the small hand-raised motionless wave if you're lucky enough to be pounding the sand along the chilly Atlantic, the tide out, the sun beating down?
You have to give thanks. Acknowledgment.
Take a read.