I finished up six years of running every day (that's 2,191 days) with a nice three-mile run in the cold rain this morning. My morning routine is streamlined now that I no longer ask myself if I'm going running today, just when and how far. Running every day has caused me to rethink what "good weather for running" means. I planned to do a mile and call it done, but once I got out, and found my Soprano's baseball cap kept most of the rain out of my face, I just kept going.
I just kept going, might be my running motto.
I ran a mile and a half to the track, and then around six times, dodging bloated earthworms who seemed to have crawled out onto the track to offer themselves up as a kind of blood sacrifice to the birds. Then I walked a mile and a half home, no headphones, just me and the sound of the rain, the occasional crow, the electric sound of a starling, and about two hundred Canada Geese (I stopped counting at fifty and just estimated from there).
After I got home and told my husband I just finished six years of running every day. He looked thoughtful for a moment, and said, "That's funny, I thought it was around four years, five at most." I counted on my fingers just to be sure. I began January 1, 2015, so that's 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Yup, six years.
This year especially, with the pandemic, with the isolation, running has been my lifeline. I'm not sure I have ever gotten closer than six feet with another human being, but I keep a gaiter around my neck just in case I am suddenly surrounded by hordes of people. But I'll wager not running is far more hazardous to your health than running is.
But I think the health benefits of running have to do nearly as much (or perhaps more) with being outside and in the sunshine for at least twenty minutes every day.
And then there are my running "friends." The folks I see, some of them nearly every day, we exchange a "morning" or a wave (yes, I'm one of those runners who acknowledges nearly everyone I meet). And this year, in particular, I feel like we've all developed a rapport.
There's Angelo, about eight years old, with his straight back and shoulders held up in a T, who walks with his distinctive sway around the fields. "How ya doin'?" he calls out. "Angelo," I say, "I'm doing GREAT!" "Ah, good to hear that, and so am I...and you have a wonderful day!" "You, too!"
There are the two men who must be brothers, the resemblance is so strong. We exchange, "Morning!" "Morning!" and that's all, but I wonder which of them is older and if he's the one who always tends to walk a few steps ahead.
There's the husband and wife, both probably in their seventies, who give me a wide berth as I run along the path, and I do the same. I think they may be Polish. We say, "Good morning," and one day I saw them at Aldi and couldn't think of where I knew them from until the man pantomimed running, and then I laughed.
Then there's Ian (or is it Tom?). I didn't see him for several weeks, and began to be worried, but we must have just kept missing each other. He's 92, a Korean War veteran, and walks every day with a walker, up one street, down another, then back again. He repeats this two or three times then goes home. He spent eight years caring for his wife who had Alzheimer's, and since she passed (that's the way he says it), what else does he have to do? Well, he went snowboarding with his grandkids over Christmas, so there's that. (Note to self: when I can no longer run, keep walking.) I always stop and talk with Ian (or Tom, I don't use his name because I'm not sure I have the right one).
There's the guy who walks while reading a Bible, or some religious work (how do I know this? I just do). If I didn't say hi, I don't think he would look up.
Another friend is a neighbor of mine, who goes to the fields early in the morning to hit golf balls, and complains about the Bible-reader who apparently has complained about his hitting golf balls in the fields. We have talked about the weather, his kids, the Vietnam War, the Marines, President Trump ("When THAT MAN said what he did about John McCain, well..."), his brother-in-law who died of COVID, and why we both love dogs so much. "Well, I'll let you get back to your running," he'll say, after talking my ear off for fifteen minutes.
Then there's the woman who walks with her sister (again, I don't know this for sure, but the resemblance is too strong for there not to be a family connection) and her daughter. And sometimes I say, "Good morning, ladies!" and I'm impressed by the girl's very mature wave and "good morning."
By and large the folks who are least likely to say "hi" or "good morning" or "howya doin'?" are younger people (and by "younger people" I mean anyone younger than, well, 51). The high school track team almost never acknowledges my existence (and I even know some of these kids!) as though a 51-year-old woman who runs is a portent of things to come, the omen they never want to believe. (But when I see them I do regret not running more, especially longer distances, in my younger years, back when my ligaments were made out of rubber, and soreness was cured by more running or maybe a beer.)
There's one youngish guy, maybe thirty at most (about the age when you can stop trusting people), who strides around the field, looking straight ahead, the gazelle is in his sights and his is going to run that thing down. I do say hi, but he's usually passed by the time it's out of my mouth. And sometimes I feel like tripping him.
Today I did no headphones. Sometimes it's music. Occasionally I'll listen to a podcast an audiobook (most recently was Jane Austen's Persuasion, which I had read before, I could swear it, but seemed brand new to me). I have very little patience for podcasts.
I almost only ever run alone. I hate running with other people. Really hate it. My pace alters, my mind fixates on what they're doing, what they're thinking. And this might be part of the reason I really don't like running races, even though I do, and why I am actually glad all races were canceled this past year. Ultimately, there's only one person I want to race against, and that's me. Running releases my brain, lets my thoughts scatter, then reins them back in. Running helps clarify my goals, work on my projects, come up with ideas. And, yes, when I'm listening to music, running also helps me to star in my own music videos. And they're fantastic.
So there are some thoughts on running every day for six years. I've wondered this year (maybe more than unusual) what I would do, what I will do, when an illness or injury ends my running streak. I just hope that I'll take it in stride (pun absolutely intended).