Last Friday on my long run I caught myself wistfully thinking of the past. There was a time in 2016 when running felt relatively effortless. It was work, don’t get me wrong, but I’d reach a point where the effort was background to my enjoying beautiful weather, a nice night or pretty scenery as I ran. The feeling was so good sometimes that it actually became a little dangerous. I would head out for what I thought was a 5 km run that I’d knock out in 35 min or so. Then, I’d be enjoying myself so much I would get to the place where I intended to turn back and instead went further, often going 2-3 times the distance I intended to. The run was always fantastic but I paid for it the next day with a sore IT band that would keep me from running for 2-3 weeks.
Last week I was thinking how running now feels effortful all the time. I enjoy it, but I don’t ever forget that I’m breathing hard and my legs are pushing themselves. “When will I get back to a fitness level that lets me really forget myself in a run?” I thought. And then I thought “Are those days gone?”
On Monday after work Sage comes to see me before my run. “You need to be careful. There’s a heat warning and a severe thunderstorm watch.” I make a mental note to do a shorter run and use Randonautica to find a random point less than a couple of kilometres away. I chose the word “Fun” to focus on – because fun would be a good distraction from an electrical storm or dangerous temperatures. It returns a point just across the river from here in the back yard of a highrise building. Round trip distance: 3.8 km. Perfect for a day like this when I should probably be taking it easy. Off I go. Three minutes in to the run I pass a sign:
Honestly, though, it doesn’t feel all that bad. There’s a nice breeze, the sun is beautiful and people are out. This is the sort of day I look forward to all winter – hot weather, sun, good music playing in my earbuds and exercise.
It takes just under 15 minutes to get to the destination and I’m delighted to find something here: a community garden I didn’t know about. This one’s pretty big, sitting behind three large buildings right at the edge of the ravine.
I run along the perimeter of the garden up to the edge of the forest in the ravine and I see something even more exciting. There’s a gap in the fence and a trail leads off in to the forest. As a friend of mine later said when I told him of this run: “A hole in a fence. It’s like an invitation of flashing neon lights…..” Instead of turning back I go in to the forest and run along the trail. It’s really narrow and steep at times and once I stumble so spectacularly that my arms are pinwheeling and I’m staggering to avoid falling. As I am doing all of this, the music continues to play in my earbuds and instead of thinking “What if I fall? That could really hurt!” I think “Look at me, I’m dancing!” and smile to myself. Somehow I manage to right myself and continue onward injury-free. See? I was only dancing.
I come to a spot with tons of switchbacks. It doesn’t take many times going back and forth for me to lose my sense of direction. I don’t care, though, and resolve to figure out how to get home from wherever this might lead me. The weather and uncertainty make me too happy to even dream of turning backward.
After a few minutes I stop at a particular switchback.
I know this spot. Daegan and I were here about six weeks ago – and I even wrote about it. I took this photo and emailed it to Daegan with the message “Uh-oh. I recognize this spot! Do you?” as we got lost in the very same area before. I learn from our past mistakes, though, and just climb over the sticks and continue off to the left instead of doing one last switchback.
I come to a construction area that also seems familiar and there’s a relatively nice dirt road to run on.
I run until the trail ends at the railroad tracks.
I do know this fence. Daegan and I stood at this very spot and tried to figure out what to do last time we were here. I realize I thought the road I was on was the road that Daegan and I took that time that led from the park next to our apartment, not the one that leads further way to this spot.
I consider climbing over the fence like I did last time with Daegan. But when I get to the top there are a number of wires sticking up from the fence that catch on my shorts. I imagine myself getting stuck up there or worse, getting my clothes caught there and having them catastrophically tear and have to sit there and wait for Daegan to find his way there to rescue me.
I go to the first gate and look more closely. There on the bottom I see that some others (or some animals?) have turned the bottom of the fence up just enough. I crawl under, getting myself muddy in the process and emerge on the other side. I know the way from here. Up the hill past another construction site.
And before long I’m back in civilization, running on sidewalks. But I also know that I’m far from home. Last time Daegan and I did this walk we ended up walking over 15 kilometres. I decide on a more direct but less pleasant / pretty route home along a busy street that’s shorter.
And by the time I get home, my 3.8 km run has become 8.72 km (5.4 miles). As I get to my building I feel the wind pick up and the storm clouds have stacked up just to the west of us. A big storm is clearly on the way.
I got my wish – and then some this time. I lost myself in the joy of running to the point that distance no longer mattered. And not only that, I didn’t end up with any injury.
It definitely delivered on the word “Fun” – maybe there is something to this randonaut thing.