Five years and I’ve not beaten my feet on the concrete, asphalt, or green. I jogged for about 15 years, 3-5 miles a day, three days a week, until my feet became stiff and tingling. Plantar fasciitis is hard to kick since you have to stay off of the your feet, and SF is a walking city. Five years and stiff insoles have almost completely eliminated the pain, my limberness, and oxygen rich blood cells.
I miss jogging. I miss the 5 and 10k charity races with a free t-shirt and snacks. I dreamed of the marathon, but the furthest I ever got was just short of a half. Two of my favorite routes were through the neighborhood where I spent my adolescence and an indoor track. Of the two, the track is amazing and rare. Built in the 30’s during the depression at the downtown YMCA, it is a true landmark. Short, 1/16th of mile around and made of hard woods suspended over a gym with a 45 degree outward curve from the bottom to the top. The faster you sprint, the higher on the curve you can run, and the woods are soft on the back, knees, and feet. No stimulus, no weather, and no vehicles; only your psyche and headphones to keep you going. The hardest thing was keeping count of your distance. I usually ran one mile in one direction then reversed the next, and so on. No one used it.
I don’t miss the pain, the sore muscles and strained tendons, pulled hamstrings and sore heels, nor the stiff neck, and clicking rotator cups in the hips. I don’t yearn for yapping dogs, run stop signs, diesel exhaust, and poorly tuned autos. I don’t hope for the rain, heat, humidity, lightening, frozen sidewalks or bridge crossings. I don’t care what you or your child thinks, it is not funny to slip and slide along a narrow bridge sidewalk and crash onto a concrete curb. I don’t ache for the gawking judgmental stink/evil eye or occasional shout out, “Who the hell do you think you are, Prefontaine?”
One day on the street, lost in thought, my feet miss-judged a garbage bag. I fell badly over an ankle, and thought I could run it off. I finished two more miles out of the five and I made a terrible mistake. By lunch, I couldn’t walk on it and had to visit the doctor for an air cast and crutches. I was down for six weeks and the body remembers. It remembers the benefits like dead sleep at night and automatic alarm clock energy in the morning. It remembers the warm-up and cool down stretching, reaching or bending down without thinking about it, and boundless endurance. Most of all–the pain, the weather, and the obstacles are all worth the rare fusion of physiology, psychology, and Earth.
Being yearns for bliss. It remembers the moving meditation and a thousand new thoughts. On a random day or route, and in any weather, the body, mind, and world achieve perfect balance in the moment. No pain and no strain, no weariness and no nervous anticipation, no awareness of time or synthetic rational constructs of everyday life. There are no thoughts of work, responsibilities, or desires. The body is fully engaged not fighting the mind. The mind is empty and absorbing everything.
Breathe in breathe out, one step after the other, for a time, nothing else matters. Colors are more vibrant, scent is sweeter, the muscles sing, and there is no separation from anything, anyone over all time, past, future, or present. Being is full in the moment. All is balance.
After a five-year hiatus, how hard could a short run in the fog be? Ole-skool sweatpants, sweatshirt jacket, ball cap, and John Butler Trio on the headphones are a motivational sound track. My neighborhood is flat. The Marina is built on landfill and once was a swamp. I’ll go for ten blocks or so; it shouldn’t be too difficult. I am committed as I get out of bed. My mind wants it, my body wants it, and I smile in anticipation. No way I cannot go.
I dress, drink a glass of water, and stretch a bit. Downward dog, side to side, one leg up then the other, I am going. On the street, not even the wet fog is going to stop me. Downbeat, I start out a little too fast. Hello, I smile to an early riser. My informality stuns him for a moment. “Do I know that guy?” No. Cross the street, up two blocks and towards the Palace of Fine Arts. I’ll make a loop to the Palace, down to the waterfront and back. It should not take me any longer than 15 minutes.
Two minutes in, I am breathing hard. Slow, deep breaths I tell myself. The body remembers; two bags of concrete around my core, my neck stiffens, and lactic acid builds up in my legs. My feet are comfortable and guide me around the larger cracks in the sidewalk. At least they are not in pain. Five minutes in, my legs are melting like angel hair pasta in full rolling boil. I am listing forward too much; my feet are falling behind my enthusiasm. I have to stop to catch my breath. Hands on my hips, staring down, I slow my breath and walk for a block.
Another five-minutes, stop and repeat, until I determine to jog the final leg on the loop without stops. Another jogger deep in conversation with her buddy tips her eyes to me. I smile back. The legs are getting heavy, but I will not stop until the end. I have to be tough. My pace is half of what I started, but I make it home. I am elated. I walk four blocks to cool down and assess. I am tired but invigorated, didn’t run the entire way, but feel successful. Baby steps are best. I will alternate climbing Scott Street up to Jackson and back on every other excursion with jogging the small loop, until I can jog the entire distance and add to it.
I’ve a lot of work to do just to get back to 3 miles every other day. I am on my way, and after I establish the routine, I will add weight lifting and Ti Chi. I can’t wait.