Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Rush of a Run Through the Woods

Chasing Down Time

The first thing I realized, chugging up through the woods, was that I miss this feeling. I miss the exertion, the adrenalin. The rush that only comes when the physical meets the emotional in a drawn-out moment that we wish could last forever. When gasping breath and pounding heart are forced to share one’s attention with the love of something as simple and elemental as the forested side of a mountain.

It seems frivolous from a distance, this urge to go run up a trail. And from a distance the feeling is easy to forget. Life gets in the way, in the form of kids and play, of work and self-ascribed responsibilities, and over time the pursuits that give us pleasure get pushed to the side.

We realize it. We mean to lace up those old sneakers and go recapture that feeling. I’ll get out this weekend. Or the week after that. When things slow down enough to justify the frivolity of a run up a mountain.

Steadily, the months pass. Then so do the years, if we let them.

And I saw that I was letting them, even as I said I would not.

Today I went out and put a stop to the passing. Not the passing of time, but the passing of my time. The passing of the chances we all have to draw out those feelings.

I realized a few other things today too, out there where I heard only the songs of unseen birds, the playful hiss of a river tumbling over itself and the labor of two lungs trying to keep up with this forty-something running in denial of his age.

I realized that sometimes two very different paths will lead you to the same place.

I realized that, though some may tell you to keep your eyes on the prize you are after, there are times when the best thing to do is stop and look around. Sometimes the best way to go is sideways.

And I realized – or perhaps I knew but forgot – that no matter what the trail up ahead looks like, it’s bound to change soon enough. The path twists and rises and dips and rises again. One moment you’re flying over rocks and roots, and the next you are slipping through the mud you couldn’t see. Just when you think you’ve run out of breath the terrain changes and you feel you can keep on going. Although eventually, every trail run ends.

And I realized that it’s okay if I don’t make it to the top of the mountain today. Because I’ve already gotten what I came here for. That rush, that clash of feeling and emotion. It’s back. And so am I.

I’ll make it to the top of that mountain, I know. Tomorrow, maybe. Next week, or the week after that. And I’ll find, I’m sure, some satisfaction in knowing that what once came quickly but was suddenly elusive I chased down to make mine once more.

And that drawn-out moment will come once again.

But no matter how far I’ve gone, no matter how high I’ve climbed, that moment that comes will also end.

And there will be nothing left to do but go home and do laundry.