Tuesday, August 30, 2005

It's The Little Things

Sulphur Springs 9mi
Today, for the first time, I repeated a long run route, simply adding a mile to the end of last week’s to make it the requisite 9 miles. I spent several hours the other day laying out a 9 mile route down the West Bank to Columbus and up through the Woodlawn Cemetery, but it was relatively exposed and the day was looking like it was going to be a scorcher. So I opted for the shade and the familiarity of the Sulphur Springs route as well as the asphalt and soft trails versus the sidewalks of my mapped route. The route that I mapped covers an area that I haven’t run before and I guess I feel somehow obligated to explore this side of the river. The route holds little appeal for me and I was prepared, I thought, to run it in the name of thoroughness and dedication to the cause, but now these seem like ridiculous notions. I have said before, and some of my recent readings have reinforced the notion, that the primary function of the writer or cartographer is not to compose, but to edit. To paraphrase Denis Wood, the only truly complete map is the world in front of us, and we already have that. However, in order to edit effectively, you must be familiar with those things that you choose to eliminate. And so I must run this route, but today is not the day.
I’ve been noticing lately a large number of toads smashed on the road. These toads seem to be of a variety that I am not familiar with, but they are large and extremely foul smelling when deceased. They all seem to have suffered the most violent of deaths, wherein their innards are expelled through their mouths in a lipstick-red tangle of heart/lung/intestinal tissue. I have been trying my damnedest not to slip on their carcasses as I run.
If last Tuesday I ran in the moment, reveling in the “discovery and wonder” of these new yet familiar environs, today I ran mostly in my head. I let the familiar streets pass beneath my feet, and I stayed inside myself, first feeling the tightness in my right shin and left achilles (it’s always here, despite running on the opposite side of the road, stretching, etc.), then the relief of the mulched trail through the Hobo Jungle.
I reach the railroad trestle and I’m back in the moment, concentrating on making the leap from tie to tie without slipping while listening for distant trains.
It’s these moments that last in my memories as the rest of the run fades away. This is the attention to detail that concerns Corlis Benefideo, and it is this attention that makes active pursuits fill our memories of the past. A week spent sunbathing in the Caribbean may be a great tonic for the usual stresses of work and home, but to traverse a snow field in the morning sun or to pick your way along a rocky ridge in a thick fog, these memories can be recalled minute by minute. Two years after the fact, I could write a paragraph about each one of the one hundred miles that Jan and I hiked on the Wonderland Trail.
This is not what today’s run is about. Today is one foot in front of the other. Step, step, step, breathe. Sweat. Drink. Repeat.
Except for that trestle. And the frogs.


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