Lately, I’ve started walking. For pleasure, that is. As a life-long runner, I have to say, it’s a bit odd. I’m used to moving through the world a little (and I mean a little) faster than walking pace but I’m trying to learn to get used to it.
For me, running was always been a bit of an escape. At 14, it kept me out of the house. At 21, it kept me moving when I was terrified what might happen it I stopped. At 25, it saved me. Everyday. At 27, I took my first real break from near-daily running since I had started on the track in high school. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t feel like I needed to do it. I ran when I wanted to. I found trails, occasionally, that led to snow creek banks and I followed them there but without the sense of urgency that I used to feel. This was the year Seth and I moved to Montana. I was truly, profoundly, deeply, blissfully happy. I couldn’t believe my good luck.
We walked in the woods, we fished by the creek, and we watched movies in bed until noon on Sundays. I had absolutely no desire to lace up my running shoes.
Over the years since, I’ve turned back to it several times; sometimes because I just love the way makes me feel. Other times, I’ve gone back to it bent and kneeling at the altar of miscarriage, meningitis, the job’s not working out. Running has never left me stranded, never left me lonely. But lately, it’s left me exhausted.
I have a tendency to push. And push hard. Too hard. I have two jobs, three if you count this column. I try to squeeze all that in-between 8-5 three days a week, 7-3 the other two days so I can get to Eliza and Lucille, so I can hear about their days, help them with homework, make dinner, make lunches, and shoe horn in ten minutes at the end of the day to read the New Yorker.
I’m not a glutton for punishment, it’s just the way the ball has bounced the past few months. I have my sights on the end of the year, things evening out a bit. I’ve heard of a studio space on the Northside and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not sure what the end is but I do have one in sight.
When I took this on, I thought running would, again be my salvation. But it hasn’t turned out that way. I felt terrible after runs this summer, dehydrated and depleted. I thought it was the heat but I felt this way into the fall when someone finally suggested I just stop. And I did. And I felt a lot better. There is only so much gas in the tank and I was constantly running on empty.
While I didn’t miss the pounding or the headaches that followed a long run, I did miss the space, the time to focus on only one thing without a buzzing cell phone or a constantly refreshing screen. Turns out walking affords the same space.
There is open space a few blocks from my house and I’ve been stealing an hour most days to go explore it. After a brisk walk up hill, the sounds of the highway below and town beyond fade a bit. I step over rocks, past the lone tree where two trails converge and turn to look at Missoula. I keep walking and the only thing I can hear is my steady breath. Sometimes I wonder if this what I’ve been chasing all along.