This morning I ran the same hill I wrote of nearly two weeks ago. No music this time, just the whump of my agitated heart, the scuffle-slap of my feet atop the graveled road, and the deep drawing of breath. It was early, and I saw no signs of wakefulness in the houses I passed, and I imagined the people within, still ensconced in slumber. For a moment I envied them.
In my previous life as a runner I was always motivated by fitness, or at least a certain assumption of what fitness meant. If I could run six, seven, eight miles at 7 minutes a mile, then surely I was fit. And I suppose I was, and for whatever reason, that once meant something to me. But now I run only because I like the way it feels, that peeling back of the extraneous that for me always accompanies hard physical exertion. I know I am slow, and lacking in grace, and short of endurance, but none of that matters to me now.
I climbed the hill in my lumpen way. Halfway up, I removed my shirt, let the blinding whiteness of my little belly fold itself over the belted brim of my work shorts, where it jostled in ways most unflattering. I watched the small bouncing pouch of it for a while as I ran, struck by an inexplicable sense of its hilarity. Then the height of the climb, where the road ends, and where someday, when I’m good and ready, I’m just going to keep on going, straight into those dense woods like an animal running for the place it knows best.
There I turned and fell back down the hill.