Dear Diary 014: Winter Running and Yellow Attack Hug Memories

There was a couple running together on a country road. They were chatting while the woman’s long ponytail bobbed obediently behind her. The sight of them made me shudder.

I prefer to run alone.

Last week I found every song in my iTunes library that had the word “run” in the title and made a playlist. I was not thinking of exercise when I did it. Whatever wanderlust took hold of me this year has not subsided. The cyclocross season kept me grounded and focused and gave me an excuse to stay in town every weekend. Now it’s mostly over and my feet are itchy again. I get in the car and suppress impulses to hit the gas pedal and hold my breath until I hit Arizona, Colorado… Mexico?

It doesn’t matter much where, it’s a simple thirst for new landscapes. The desire to reach up into the sky and pull down a new backdrop. Instead of driving aimlessly, I often assuage myself by fleeing on foot. Running is more than an act of exercise or a calculated execution of training. Somewhere in the subconscious it’s the motion of escape (and, ultimately, return).

I ran to Laurelhurst Park last week for the first time in months. It’s a short run – two miles to the edge and back, three miles if you throw in a loop around the perimeter. My legs are used to pedaling, so they were happy to take it easy and enjoy the journey. I settled in and watched my feet hitting the pavement below me while the neighborhood floated past.

When I run, it’s as if I have always been running. As if it is my body’s most natural state. The motion feels like a memory.

When I get to Laurelhurst, my legs want to keep going so I turn to make the loop around the park. The last time I did this it was summer and the air was hot and bright. I recall that I rounded a corner and looked up the pathway where a man was standing, looking at me.

Jeffrey. An old friend I’d not seen in years. A young photographer who made me see differently with my camera and later served as my guide in the darkroom.

Since I was already running and he was already standing there with his arms open, I kept moving toward him. The light around me went yellow and everything switched to slow motion and I crashed into him screaming. “JEFFREY!”

I couldn’t hear anything except the loud music in my headphones. I didn’t notice that his leg was broken until afterwards, when he stumbled backward a little and I caught him in my arms. The hug became a rescue and his mouth was open so I could see that he was laughing. When I finally reached up to pull the headphones from my ears, the world around me clicked into place and I became aware of children and picnics and lovers and ducks.

He said, “Heidi Swift, where have you been??”

And I said, “Everywhere, Jeffrey! Everywhere!” which was an exaggeration, but felt true in my heart.

Then we sat in the grass and talked about photography and the best place to source expired film and skateboarding accidents and the way it feels like magic when you put the paper in the final tub of chemicals and your image starts to rise to the surface – as if it’s been hiding in there all along just waiting to come out.

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One comment

  1. I run. It’s where I started and it’s always what I go back too when all else seems like it’s falling apart.

    I started running with my wife, she has a pony tail that bobs along behind. I wanted to share a quiet Sunday morning in nature with her, share a bit of the magic I have felt, physically, rather than just an excited monologue when I get home, and she wanted to start running.

    But, now my escape has become an extension of the days problems, our plans for the weekend, what jobs my MIL has lined up for me…

    When I want my escape, I want to run at my natural pace, not one that slows down my natural rhythm, ne where my mind is able to wander to whatever it choses; I prefer to run alone too.

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