I do not have to run. Perhaps a deep, distant, primordial part of me would disagree with that. But my 21st century lifestyle, complete with a gasoline-powered vehicle to get across town or the state, and airplanes to jet me across the country, means I do not have to run for protection or to shelter or after food.
But, this post is not about reasons not to run. It is about what drives me to lace up my shoes and leave my house in the morning.
Running is difficult. Physically, it can hurt. Mentally, it can be hard. Emotionally, it can tear me apart.
I have run the same roads over, and over, and over again for three and a half years. I can give you one-mile, two-mile, five-mile, eight-mile, and ten-mile routes, starting and ending at my front door, in any direction. I know every school, gas station, store, and park in a two-mile radius. I know the bridges and the crosswalks and the nature trails.
You would think this would be boring.
It is not.
I run because it is infinitely interesting.
People move in and out of apartments. Houses are sold and bought and sold again. Businesses open, then close. “Leroy’s Bar, Hot Sandwiches All The Time. Open 6:00 am” has at least one old man sitting at the bar at 6:15 am, every morning of every week. Kids are walking to school in sweaters, then jackets and hats and mittens, then t-shirts, then not at all.
But that is only the beginning. That is the superficial makeup covering the real beauty.
This morning, when I left the house, it was dark and cold. It never got warmer, but the sun rose. I witnessed a blaze of orange, crimson, and yellow blossoming across a slowly-lightening sky, reflected in a the steel-blue river. It was fascinating.
There are so many moments like this, I cannot recount them all.
Last week, as I ran along in front of the retirement community, I looked up in the small trees and noticed the nuts the squirrels have stored there. Soon, the squirrels will be out every morning, chattering, running, playing again. They will be scrawny, but as the months go on, as summer wanes into fall, they will get fat and slow. As the cold creeps in, a sense of urgency overcomes them, and they race about and fight over the last acorns.
One morning last fall, I had a four-mile run to complete. I was just starting to run with Jack, so I took him for two, dropped him off, and took the same loop again. As I approached the house that is nestled among pine trees, overlooking the creek, I stopped. There was a whitetail doe, peaceful, standing. In town! She looked at me, turned, and walked away. I haven’t seen her since; but I keep looking.
I run to the lake and back; a long route, my favorite route. It is 5 miles from my door to the point, to one of my Places. The land changes. The lake changes. In spring, the dead shad pile up on the shore. Last spring was the worst I’ve seen it; yet in two weeks they were all gone. Rotted or eaten by seagulls or pulled back into the lake; gone. In winter, I wait for the wind to drive the sheets of ice into piles on the shore; massive blocks of ice piled up higher than me. In summer, I try to avoid the lakeflies; the bane of lake existence.
Trees are planted and grow. In storms, branches fall, trees fall. (I’ve pulled more than one out of the road, so drivers are safe.) The river overflows its banks in the spring, and last summer it dipped farther down the rocks than I had ever seen it before. I watch ducks, seagulls, geese, and pelicans land, take off, eat, and fight. A mother duck leads her ducklings along one month; the next, they are in the river under her watchful eye from shore; then they are gone.
See, running connects me to the earth in a way very few things can.
The earth is infinitely changing.
It is infinitely interesting. Running on it is infinitely interesting.