Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Speedwork

We drive to the park trading yawns all the way. Darkness comes early now and in the orange glow of the streetlights the shadows of the trees sprawl in strange patterns across the trail. I do a few perfunctory stretches and begin my warmup walk. A sudden howl breaks the evening's stillness. Another joins it, then several more.

It's the coyotes. Alone they don't bother me but in packs, agitated over some perceived canine insult, they make me nervous.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. A man has been lounging on a bench talking to his girlfriend but how she drags him toward the car as he protests, "But it's only dogs!"

Three lanky young men lope past me. I can tell they're talking about the coyotes because one of them jokes, "I'll just stay in the middle."

I look around. No sign of the coyotes, but I can still hear them growling and baying at who knows what from behind the trees and brush.

But none of that is why I'm out here tonight. It's time to get down to business. I approach the quarter mile marker at a brisk walk and break into a slow jog. My legs feel fresh and springy. They want to run.

Patience. Wait.

My legs don't want to wait. They speed up. I don't have my watch but it feels too fast. Slow down.

My legs don't respond.

Okay. But don't go any faster. Not now. Wait.

The next quarter mile marker is ahead. Okay. Now!

And we take off. My pace feels light, quick, effortless, like this is what my body was born to do. Like I could do this all night, run forever across gravel punctuated by oddly cast shadows and dead autumn leaves. Only my lungs limit me. This hasn't happened in so long-- my legs running strong, surpassing my lungs' ability to give them the oxygen they need. This is what it feels like to have everything in alignment, the body working toward one purpose only-- forward motion.

After half a mile I slow down. Walk a few steps. Then a slow jog. Deep breaths. Almost immediately the legs want to go again and at the next marker they get their chance. I continue on around the looped trail like this, half a mile on, a quarter off. I fly past people who look far fitter and faster than I could possibly be. Why are they so slow tonight? I dart between walkers, people with children, people with dogs. I wonder if they're worried about the coyotes.

The last half-mile set. I have to make it count. I take off again, tired this time, but still nothing hurts except the things that are supposed to be hurting by now-- lungs burning, a little knot under my ribcage tightening into a cramp. Push on anyway. Nothing comes easy. You have to work for it.

Breathing too fast now. Breathe deeper, breathe slower but don't slack off on the pace. A tall blonde wants my part of the trail. She has that long easy gait that covers a lot of ground with very little effort. I can't compete with her on stride or grace, only on power. I ask my legs for a little more and they laugh and give it to me as if the tank is limitless. The rest of my body may be working hard, but my legs are having the time of their life, skimming over the ground like it's easy. Like it's always been easy. As if it always will be.

Light and quick, the ground rushes away behind me.

And the coyotes howl at the moonless night.

7 comments:

jet said...

Nice!

Flatman said...

I only get about one run like this per year...enjoy and bask in it!

Nice post!

Mica said...

Cool post! Glad the coyotes didn't get ya..

trifit said...

Running past coyotes? You are hard-core!

PuddyRat said...

Beautiful imagery. Thanks for sharing your run so beautifully.

tarheeltri said...

Great post! I was on edge with the coyotes and all but what a great workout for you. I think sometimes all it takes is a breakthrough like that... just keep going over the feeling in your mind, re-read your post before your next run, make it stick!

Leslie said...

What a pleasure it was to read this, to accompany you on such a flight.