A Different Kind of Traffic

People are not getting out during the week. I guess that is a good thing. Everyone is staying home as much as they can, trying to stay safe. But the weekend comes and exercise is on the agenda. And maybe a little social distance socializing. Only, the gym is closed. And the movie theaters. And restaurants. So outside is the place to go. But most trails are closed because they are muddy or covered in snow or otherwise inaccessible. So apparently everyone is coming to our neighborhood.

I mean, it isn’t really a neighborhood. Our road is a dirt road, long and flat for a mile, then rising and falling in a few gentle hills. Off of that is another road, class four in the middle. Class four means it is a public right-of-way but not maintained a whole lot–not plowed when the snow falls or graded when the mud arrives. So these couple of roads, with a couple others over the town line, make for several miles of fine walking or running or biking. And a lot of people know it.

People park at the end of the road and go from there. Most days someone does that at some point, but these days there is a line of cars as their occupants are off enjoying these roads. At the far end of one of these roads, coming at it from a long walk ourselves, my wife and I encountered half a dozen cars parked. At that end I have, a few times, seen two cars parked. You know, two people meet each other there, driving separately, and go for.a walk. But today there were six cars there. I know that may not seem like a lot. It’s not a Walmart parking lot. But it is three times the maximum number I have ever seen there before.

Walking the rest of the way home, we had to scooch over far to the right as people coming the other way did the same. We kept our distance. We wished them a good morning, waved, kept walking. And then we encountered more people. The thing is, we have done this long walk the past four Saturdays in a row. The first couple of times we encountered all kinds of automobile traffic on certain parts of it. The first time the road was dry and we got dusted out way too many times. Today on the same stretch all of one car passed us. Those cars have been replaced by pedestrians.

These times have brought a lot of change. And we see it right here on the roads around us. Fewer cars drive past but more people than ever pass, more slowly, outside of their cars. Given the hardships we have begun to face and the tragedy the world is facing, and is slowly creeping its way toward us, seeing people get outside to enjoy an early spring day is not the worst thing to happen. Maybe when all this is said and done more people will choose to take a spring walk together, rather than to meet for coffee at an inside table. I’ll take that small victory.

Day 32: Sluggish

I have a friend who has run lots of distance races. And he is serious about it. He sometimes wins and stuff. He trained for the Olympics. He has put in some work and some time. I asked him one time how he stays motivated. He said that he sometimes just gets out there, even if he doesn’t feel like it. Rain? Cold? Not enough sleep? Tough. Get out there and run anyway. It was over a decade ago he said this to me, but his words were sticky enough that I think about it on days like today. I was just plain old sluggish.

Someone asked me recently, “Are you a runner?” I used to think of myself as a runner, but my running has been so sporadic and so without accomplishment the past few years that I don’t think of myself the same way. I said something wishy washy like “I guess so,” and the conversation moved on. I guess I can say again that I am a runner, but I still feel like I should do more as a runner to call myself that. I should run far, or fast, or at least enter some events now and again. All I’m doing these days is poking down the road. Every day I’m shuffling.

I guess my accomplishment is 32 days of running in a row. That is something anyway, although it feels like a sideways way to accomplish something. It feels easier this way. I mean, I just go for a run, today and every day. I don’t worry about training plans or regimens or rules about when to run. I just go every day. I don’t go all that far, mind you, but the miles add up. Today I managed 5.6 miles. Not five and a half miles, since my house to the pond is 5.6. I’ll take the extra tenth. Like I said, it adds up.

I got plenty of sleep last night and even ate breakfast before I left, which I typically do not do. Still, I felt like a slug. I was dragging my feet. I was oozing down the road. I was pokey. It felt a little silly. I had to keep pushing myself forward and telling myself how ridiculous it was that I was going so slowly. I called myself some bad names. But I put in the miles and called it day 32. I thought of this friend of mine all those years ago and how he just got out there, whether he felt like it or not. The rest of what he said was this: “No matter what, I always feel better once I get out there; it is always worth it.”

On this point, he was right on the mark.