Yesterday 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.