Alabama

May 12, 2014

I miss running. I miss it like the vacation that dunks you in a happiness you didn’t know existed. I miss it like the comfort of hosting an old friend. When the friend leaves, you wander around the apartment washing sheets and taking out recycling, wondering what to do next. I miss it like the guy that turned on you, thinking back to that last great dinner, never knowing it would be your last.

After spraining my ankle almost two weeks ago I have all the energy to run and none for optimism for when I’ll be able to again. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone this long without running. It’s been years, maybe a decade? Clean running clothes overflow onto the floor; usually half of them are in the laundry basket. I don’t know when to shower because I’m used to showering after running. I feel sort of…too clean all the time because I can’t get sweaty. Last night I sat, sat, on the exercise bike watching Waiting to Exhale, clutching my heart, not because the movie was moving or the workout was strenuous but because I was waiting for an elevated heart rate to kick in. It doesn’t. I just push and pedal and hope and nothing, just a bead of sweat on the brow. Then I lie on the floor of my apartment hoping that my ab work will pay off later. I flip over to do leg lifts, fire hydrant, a moment of down dog before it’s too painful. And then I collapse, still on the floor, to power through the new Joan Didion biography, the Navy Seal tips for resilient living, the photo book of great railways of the world, Eric Jong’s new novel, the history of British India. Literary Cardio. There are moments of wordplay and story twists which leave me almost as breathless as running did. Almost.

Sometimes I walk at lunch while listening to jazz, big band and Gershwin from Woody Allen films. If I keep walking will something kick in? A heart rate? An experience? A little story? But it’s not Manhattan. It’s South Lake Union, Seattle. It’s my work neighborhood that just over two weeks ago I ran away from, literally, at the end of the day. I had a 4.5 mile, almost an hour-long, run home through three different neighborhoods. The other day a man in my office I had never spoken to asked: “Don’t I usually see you running at this time?” “Yes,” I answered, “but I sprained my ankle.” I looked down at the ankle stabilizer crammed in running shoes I had bought just days before I hurt my ankle, still not having run in them. This man doesn’t know my name. He doesn’t know what I do. All he knows is that I run—ran.

Here’s what happened in Alabama. I went to Dauphin Island Beach with some of my best girls in the world. I ran alone for 3.1 miles in the quiet, white sand. It was tough, hot, sunny, and sweaty. When I finished the run I saw my friends laying out and laughing in the sand on four beach towels: pink, yellow, red and blue. I stood among the group for a moment, panting, soaked in sweat, heat, friendship and color. Then I removed my watch, shoes and socks, and set them in the sand with my phone. I walked to the shore and in full running gear stepped into the Gulf of Mexico. I sat in the blue water and let it swirl around me, rush in and out, cooling and equilibrating.

Dear running, come back to me. I know like the waves on that hot day in Alabama you will. I know that it only takes time to heal and all we can count on is change. I know this post is whiny, long and longing. I know that, today, I never knew I could miss you so much.

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