Sunday, March 3, 2013

Running Angels

The past few weeks in my pursuit of getting back to running, getting back to where I was before
the injury derailed me have been tough.
I've been getting out there, (the first hurdle) but it's cold and windy and there have been days where
I've encountered too much ice and had to slow to an observant walk, a trudge, really, my running shoes skidding as I pick my way along.
Character-building. That's what the types of runs I've been doing are called by my husband.
They are not fun. You might experience pain while running, in various parts of your body.
Your legs might get crampy and you will want to stop. Or, in my case, an intense back-ache that's been plaguing me, a sign that my core is rebelling against all the exercise, the ramping-up I've been submitting it to.  It's not fun.

Yesterday was another of these runs. I ran along King Street to where it converges to Lower River Street and then up to Queen, a usual route. Along Queen to some backstreets where I ran parallel to Broadview. My legs, calves in particular this time, were screaming. I stopped to walk. My playlist seemed slow. It bored me. I contemplated turning around and going home. I felt glum.

I reached Gerrard and Broadview, the mini-Chinatown, the library on the north-west corner, the crowd waiting for an elusive streetcar. An older man, elderly, really, was running south, towards me.
At first look, waiting for the light to change, I couldn't really tell if he was actually running, or just trying to make it to the streetcar stop.
I crossed the street. He was definitely a runner. Black, beaten-up runners. Black baggy sweatpants. Faded brown hoodie. A non-descript ball cap. I ran by him as he was circling the library entrance, noting his beet-red face, a mirror, I'm sure of my own--effort and cold mingling.
I ran up Broadview past the Don Jail and the newly named Jack Layton Wy, spelled that way on the streetsign (I had the thought of why couldn't they just stick the a in there?).  Just as I crossed the Wy,
the elder runner, Brown Sweatshirt, as I'd nicknamed him, lumbered by me, his feet barely lifting off the ground. I think I grimaced. Here I was, labouring along, dragging myself through this run, and a man approximately thirty years my senior had just effortlessly passed me. He ran ahead. I tried to pace myself to him, imitating his short strides and foot motion. I felt a bit better. I let myself fall behind and didn't feel the need to turn it on and just blow by him. Why? I knew I'd never be able to keep up that pace. I changed my music, upping the volume, trying anything to get to the top of the Broadview hill, reach the Danforth, head west over the Bloor viaduct and at last be running on flat ground rather than uphill.

Brown Sweatshirt disappeared as I reached the top of the hill. Just...gone. I told  my husband this story, starting it with "I got passed while running today by a seventy-year-old man."  Then I told him that he'd disappeared.
My husband; "He probably turned off somewhere."
Me; "No, I looked everywhere. It's like he saw me floundering on the corner in front of the library and decided to haul me along on his run. Like a running angel.  Urging me on through a difficult phase, then just...vanishing."
My husband looked at me. He's used to my ruminations on faith, and spirits, all these fanciful religious ideas that I cling to (he doesn't). 
"Sure, maybe," he said, coming on board, for my sake.

It made perfect sense to me.
A running angel.
Why not?

Thanks to Brown Sweatshirt, I made it across the viaduct, flew home down Parliament, and felt that good feeling for the second half of my run, the reason why running is so fundamental once you let it in. Like those concepts of spirit, so mysteriously fleeting.

But so deliciously gratifying once you catch a glimpse....

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