Do you have a go-to run?
I mean a route that you’ve run for years, whether two or eight or thirty. You’ve seen this route in every season, and it has seen you in countless stages of life, and moods. The length of this route lies probably somewhere in your “middle distance” range – it’s long enough to be special, but short enough that you can do it on a regular basis. Maybe there are people who you see on this route whose names you’ll never know, but seeing them still provides a tiny reassurance that all is okay.
I have a go-to run. I didn’t realize it fully until a day recently when I had an absolutely wonderful run along that route. It’s a trail run. I call it, blandly but fittingly, my “six-mile signpost run,” because the round-trip is about six miles and my turnaround point is…you guessed it…a signpost.
I had the day off from work, so I pounced on the opportunity to run in the smack-dab-middle of the day. It’d be too hot in the summertime, but this time of year? Perfect. The air was crisp, the sun warm, the breeze mild. A God-given run. As I ran along, I felt that weird, underappreciated mix of joy, humility and gratitude that results when a great run collides with a general happiness with life.
I realized I’ve run this route a LOT since moving to Albuquerque in 2007. It was one of the first runs my brother took me on when I arrived here; my lungs hadn’t acclimated to the elevation yet and I hated it. Since then, it’s been my “long-ish but comfortable” run when I’m not training for a marathon; my “God I need a break from calculated workouts” run when I am training for a marathon; and all the other times…well, it’s just my go-to run. I’ve run it when I’m tired, when I’m elated, when I’m sad, when I’m furious, when my feet just itch to run on trails and my eyes itch to see flowers, cacti, maybe a coyote. It’s not a cure-all run; I’ve sometimes returned home still feeling any or all of the emotions mentioned above.
But there’s always a point of pause when I hit that turnaround signpost (I actually do give it an affectionate pat). The post is a welcome sight after the mostly-uphill first leg, and when I turn and see Albuquerque spread out before me, I’ve taken to just standing still for a second. Sometimes the second is to consciously summon up something that’s bothering me, and just as consciously leave it there at the signpost. Sometimes it’s to pray a request. Sometimes it’s to say thank you. Sometimes it’s just to hear quiet.
Kristin Armstrong described one of her favorite running routes as a “This Is Your Life” kind of experience. And, if we have a favorite route, it has seen a significant portion of our lives. Landmarks along the route – trees, signposts, even porta-porties – retain and trigger memories. The route becomes a trusted friend.
If I ever move away, I’ll miss my signpost run terribly.
If you have a go-to run, the next time you run it, pause for a second and think how your life has changed since the first time you ran it. Say thank you. And maybe even give that signpost an affectionate pat.