How Good it Felt

IMG_2715Yesterday I ran more than five miles, the farthest I’ve run in a dozen years or more. It was cool and raining softly, so I turned up the mountain road, and soon was warm enough to shed my shirt and let the water pelt my skin. I’ve always liked running in the rain. There’s something primal about it.

I ran steady, neither slow nor fast, harboring my marginal reserves for the steepest grades, where the forest turns to hardwood and the canopy closes tight over the roadway, almost tunnel-like. About halfway up the mountain, I happened upon a car-struck hare, rear legs stretched long in death, upturned eye as leaden as the clouded sky; a few dozen strides later, a summer-fat deer cleared the road in a handful of effortless bounds, tail flagged high, with not so much as a glance my way.

Over the two months since I stumbled through the woods, it’s been an unspoken goal of mine to run that road to its apex. Honestly, I did not expect it to happen so quickly, nor did I expect it to feel as… easy isn’t the right word, exactly. But it wasn’t hard, either. Or at least, it wasn’t as hard as I’d assumed it would be. I was comfortable, within myself, capable of even more, I knew, and maybe because of this, I felt grateful for my body in a way that’s unfamiliar to me. And with my newfound gratitude, a small-ish shame that I’d not previously been more appreciative. There are many bodies in this world that cannot run a mountain to its peak, or stack nearly 2,000 square bales of hay, or split a winter’s worth of firewood. And while someday, I’m sure mine will join with these bodies, yesterday was not that day, and tomorrow probably won’t be, either.

Recently, someone reminded me that I could well live another 50 years, and I have to admit it shocked me a bit. Fifty more years. I’d never even considered such. I’d be 94. Probably not running mountains, probably not tossing bales, or bucking firewood. Probably more like the man at the feed store, the one I wrote about recently, unsteady under a bag of grain, weakened by the cruel march of time and knowing such, but still clinging to the things that make me feel most alive. Glad to hoist that one bag, to know its weight in my atrophied muscles, how it makes me totter on my aged legs. They were strong, once, those legs, and I hope I’ll be able to remember just how strong, and just how good it felt let them carry me up that hill.

10 thoughts on “How Good it Felt”

  1. I know (knew) all of those feelings (emotions) in a previous life. I miss them. But with a total hip replacement I avoid any exercise that “pounds” my fat ass into the ground. Today, it’s mostly walking and bicycling, the low impact variety. Keep running my friend.It’s good for the head and the soul.

  2. You make me want to try running again – although I don’t have as lovely a route. I hated it, then after a week saw how I might like it – then felt thwarted by a lasting terrible pain in my knee so abandoned the quest for those pleasure endorphins I’ve heard might be found in running. With a decade on you, I am aware of what I might be leaving on the table by not moving enough but for tonight at least, I’ll walk.

  3. In 2008, while trail running down cascade mountain in the Adirondacks at 5:45 AM after another privileged sunrise peak, it occurred to me that there are many, if not most, people who are unaware of the thrilling responsiveness about our bodies to our brains. If one were a sports car, how many millions might we cost? No need to get in my car.

  4. That’s pretty impressive for an old geezer. I got that runner’s high once when I was in my 20’s. Whoa! I was doped up. But then I heard you have to run even more each time if you want to get high every time, and I was like fuck this. Wish I hadn’t of said that…..

  5. I’ve been reading your posts for awhile without commenting but today I feel compelled to comment. I’ve just started running again after having 3 kids and it has been feeling pretty good. I feel like my old self “pre-babies” and I did forget how good it feels to run and realize how strong my body is. Thanks for this post and the reminder to be grateful!

  6. Ben, you are AMAZING to be able to project into the future. (It seems like yesterday that I was your age, and 100% incapable of envisioning anything other than the immediate present.)

    You are so right that time’s relentless march will claim vital aspects of our former youth. Thanks for reminding us to “make hay while the sun shines!”

  7. Newfound gratitude. Been nursing some ribs that may or may not be broken. Not one for doc’s and there’s nothing to be done anyway. Didn’t realize how often I sneeze. It makes me wonder how some would manage if they couldn’t care for their farms. A good reminder Ben… that we definitely shouldn’t take our health for granted. And, as in my case, to be more careful.

  8. Good for you for making it to the top. The Pennsylvania summer humidity has been putting a cramp on my running mojo, but I made it out this morning and was glad I did. Often when I am running and wondering why I am doing it, I tell myself that one of the reasons is simply because I CAN and I shouldn’t let that ability go to waste. It doesn’t matter if I’m fast or not; I have two working legs.

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