Getting Quiet


You go out early, the sky in the east hinting at pink, the clouds that will become gray still black, you can feel winter nosing its way in. You feel the damp air kneading your shoulders, the coldness creeping into your sleeves. You can’t see much. The sun has a while before it crests the Green Mountains. Everything is shadow, but out you go anyway.

You wear a headlamp, not out of fear of the dark, and despite that there is just enough light to see the road. No, you wear the light because you are afraid you will run into what is so often already there. You are afraid you might encounter a skunk, or a porcupine, and that, you are sure, would set the day on a different path than you had hoped. And, you admit, it does help you see where you are going better. Stepping into a hole in the road and twisting your ankle would also not set the day headed in the right direction.

As you run up the hill, your feet are the loudest thing you hear. They sound too loud, as if you have disturbed the quiet of the morning. Then you become aware of the sound of your breathing and that too seems too loud. You try to relax but you are powering up the hill now and you don’t want to stop, so you keep the pace, even pick it up a little, until you reach the top.

Up there you can see the Adirondacks to the west. They have a layer of snow so the pink from the east lights them up like Easter eggs. Just above them lie the clouds, getting more gray and less black. The clouds blanket the sky but are high enough that the mountains on both sides are visible. And you head down the hill.

Once, you hear a young Song Sparrow. It is not the robust Song Sparrow song of spring but a rough song, recognizable but raspy, a bold young scamp practicing to woo the ladies post-winter. Otherwise, it is quiet. Things are louder when the light is low but on this morning there is little to hear.

You turn around at the ash tree where you often turn around. Now you are heading east and get to see the sky glowing with color. By the time you get home you can see how many more leaves the wind has pulled from the trees overnight. There is a breeze, just enough to cut through your thin jacket, and you still have not warmed up all the way, even though you have started to sweat.

You walk the last part. You stop just before the house to listen. You hear the wind, and your breathing, slower now. The Song Sparrow is far away. You shuffle some leaves on the ground to hear them rustle. Then you go inside, to brew coffee, to warm up, to get ready for your day.

Day 28: Caballo Blanco

I read recently, somewhere, in an article I have since lost and forgotten, about a runner who decided not to take days off. Why think about whether today or tomorrow will be a rest day? Why consider whether running today makes sense or if a day off would be better? The author just ran every day. It made a lot of sense. I find time to run most days early in the morning, before everyone else rises for the day, and if I didn’t take days off I would not be able to make excuses. “I am tired and it is dark and I am still sleepy and the bed is warm; I need a rest day anyway, so I’ll just stay in bed.” If I ran every day I would just get up and go. I would have to.

I am on day 28 of running every day. I started off small–two milers. I have been building from there. Today I only ran three miles. It does not seem very far. I used to think of five miles as my minimum run distance. But after a couple kids added to the mix, and too much time away from real running, and back surgery, and making a living and other sorry excuses, my distances have shortened. My longest has been about seven miles in those 28 days. Not shabby but I hope to go farther. It is hard not to imagine running 100 miles at some point.

Of course, this morning I was not ready to run 100 miles. If I was still in the habit of making excuses I probably would have stayed in bed. I was tired. My back was sore. My calves were sore for criminy’s sake. But I tell you, walking out when the sun is just coloring the horizon, and the woodcocks are dancing over the fields, and the song sparrows are just warming up their voices, and the mountains are silhouetted on the horizon, it just can’t be beat. So I ran three and got the miles in and added a day. I hope to hit 100 days in a row.

I need to think about things as I run. Well, perhaps I do not need to think about things, but it is hard not to think about things. Today I thought about Caballo Blanco. He is the ultrarunner who was featured in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. ¬†Two days ago the New York Times reported that he had died. If you have not read the book, I recommend it. If you are a runner you will be inspired to run more. If you are not a runner, you will be inspired nonetheless. It is a terrific story. Caballo Blanco, or “White Horse” lived to run. He, and his adventures, made me want to live more simply, and to run because it is just plain fun. He went to the desert canyons in Mexico to learn from the best, and he died on a run in New Mexico. Quite a life.

So I thought about this man as I ran this morning. He wanted to be remembered as being “authentic.” It seems he was. How will I be remembered? What mark will I leave? How will I impress my children with how to live authentically? These were some of the questions I thought about as the sky grew light and Jupiter faded into the dawn. And then I ran home.