Nine years ago, I said this:
Not since high school have I run side by side with someone. I have wanted to. I invited someone who was supposedly training for the Leukemia Society’s half marathon and he turned me down. I challenged someone who wants to WALK a 13.1 miler, she chickened out. I’ve strode next to lots of someones at the Gerbil Cage, but side by side on treadmills are nowhere near the real thing of running side by side outside.
Thursday my sister and I ran. She’s trying to lose pregnancy belly fat and I’m trying to lose my fear of everything that strangles my psyche. Despite the fact I barely got any sleep the night before I got up at 5:30am to chase the early morning light around my sister’s island. If there was an emotion that permeated my brain that a.m. it was envy. She runs in the most beautiful place. How do I explain this? She runs on a dirt road that turns paved. She runs in the woods, through a still-sleepy town, along the shore line, past beautiful, sea-weathered cottages. She smells pines, fresh bread baking, island roses and the sharp ocean. She sees gulls and finches, butterflies and curled up cats, tiger lilies and seaweed covered shorelines. She hears fog horns, waves lapping and whispering trees. In the distance a horse calls and a dog answers. Birds sing continuously. She stops for water, plucks blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and even late blooming strawberries before moving on.
We promised no chatting but I couldn’t help commenting on cottages for sale, sleeping dogs on porches and classic lobster boats offshore. A bell buoy clanged in the distance and I could almost picture myself living here. I got so caught up in the fantasy that I forgot I was running.
4.5 miles later my sister announced, “I walk at the bricks” and true to her word she slowed to a walk where the sidewalk ended. As the sweat cooled on my back I marveled at how easy it had been to run on her island. How easy it had been to run with her. In high school she ran cross country. I ran away from physical activity. She has always been Miss Athlete, despite having two kids. I have always been Miss Bookwormslug. I never in a million years thought I would run with her…much less actually keep up.
Knee conversation – not a peep. Must be the huge shoes!
This was then – November 23, 2005 –
This started out as the run from hell. It all started with my sister telling me she only runs for 30 minutes. (At the time she told me this I remember thinking, “oh good. I’m way past running for just 30 minutes and felt relieved.) If I remember correctly she said she’s up to 3.5 – 4miles at a time. The last time I ran I covered four miles in 50 minutes. That means she is definitely going to smoke my azz when we run together this weekend. Not good. Not good at all. So, I decided to step it up, just to see if I could even do it.
I started this run at dusk. Great for losing the Everybody Is Looking At Me attitude. Not so great for maneuvering around pushed up sidewalks and overzealous roots. I also started this run with a new-fangled toy my husband bought me – one of those fancy armband music things. (Don’t I sound 80 years old? I don’t know what an mp3 player is!) It’s this armband thingy that has me thinking this was going to be the worst run of my life. First, my arm is too skinny. The Velcro strap wouldn’t cinch tight enough to keep it high up on my arm. (Looking back I remember how silly Kisa and I got trying to make the strap tight enough to fit my arm. We were reduced to giggles by the time I hit the road.) Five minutes into my run and the whole thing had slid down to the crook of my elbow. If I didn’t keep my arm bent the entire time the whole thing would have gone flying off, for sure. Second, if you aren’t fast enough with the buttons (say, starting the stopwatch thingy) you have to start all over again. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to play the next song. I ran through three Sparks before I realized the song was looping. Because I couldn’t stop in mid-run to figure it out I blindly pushed buttons until I got the song to advance. It reminded me of when my sister and I were kids and we had to hurry to get our chores done. We would pretend we had a “faster” program built into our arms and by pushing these “buttons” we could work faster (A la bionic man?) Silly. Third complaint. These earbud things! I couldn’t get them to stay in my ears to save my life! Ugh! It was the most distracted run ever!
So. I had all these complaints about my new toy. I was convinced I would throw the thing at my husband’s head when I got home. I was absolutely convinced I would go back to the days of holding a giant disc-man in my hand as I ran. But, along the way something amazing happened. As long as I remember to advance to the next song I didn’t have to worry about a cd ending. I could just run and run and run. I flew along the darkening streets. I concentrated on the smells in the air – someone drying laundry, someone grilling hamburgers, someone else’s wood stove, a car in need of an oil change, stupid stuff (?!). My legs were tireless and my heart soared. THIS was the way to run. It felt so good to just go! Who cares that I couldn’t keep my new toy on my arm? Who cares that my earbuds wouldn’t stay tight? Who cares that I had to reach over to push next every time a song ended? I was running life the wind. It was the best run of my life.
Here and now – I love this post because it is a litany of firsts – first time wearing an mp3 player. Yes, I really did hold a Sony discman in my left hand when I first started running. It was my first time wearing earbuds as apposed to honking huge headphones. But, even that has magic to it. There I was, holding a discman, wearing 70s style headphones, running like a hippo and I did not care. I’ll say it again. I. Did. Not. Care. This was also the first time I went running at dusk and discovered I really love the gloaming. The one thing that makes me sad about this post is that I never fess up to exactly how long I ran.
It has been ten years but I finally convinced Kisa to get a Christmas tree. A real, honest to goodness, pine needles and sap, living, breathing tree. It took me three hours to decorate it and three minutes to decide I’m conflicted. For starters, I’m not used to having to buy a tree. Call me spoiled but where I’m from you cut down your own tree and heft it home. I have memories of my parents scoping out the perfect spruce, eyeballing it from every angle, finally deciding on “the one” only to not find it again when we returned to cut it. See, searching and acquiring couldn’t happen on the same day for some reason. It was always a process. Painstaking. Going back, Dad and I would circle trees that all looked the same asking each other, “is this it? Is this one it?” When we finally decided we had refound “The Tree” we would haul it home for mom’s inspection. She would inevitably sniff, “that’s not it.” Dad refused to go back into the woods so he would make do with a hacksaw and drill – literally cutting branches from one side and drilling them into another to fill mom’s imaginary gaps. I’m surprised we didn’t break out the gorilla glue and duct tape to finish the project. In the end we had a perfect tree even if we had to tie it to the wall. It was perfect. At least that’s how I remember it.
The other conflict I’m having is the absence of family. Decorating and dolling up the house has been completely and utterly up to me this year (and every year, come to think of it). My husband has admitted the decorations and red and green look nice but he’s never been “into” hanging boughs of holly and all that jazz. It never bothered me in the past. I guess having a fake tree took the romance out of decorating it – plastic upon more plastic. This year as I negotiated ornaments, breathed in pine and hummed Jingle Bells I was filled with nostalgia. I couldn’t help but think of Christmases long, long ago on the island. It’s one of the few memories I have of — and I and the act of being sisters. Each taking a turn to hang something precious on the tree; handmade ornaments that meant something.
So, here I am. Conflicted and content all at once. I guess that’s the status quo this time of year. It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.