This morning was a very warm and muggy start to the day. Even at 0600 and cloud cover it was 90F degrees and humid. Though it’s usually quite dry here in the southwest deserts it happens to be monsoon season. I have to admit it’s not like the heat wave that the northeast has suffered through this past week (103F in NYC! 100F in Boston!).
I’m still not really running other than to jog a bit here an there. So, I road my bike along side the high school kids this morning. Indeed conditions were stifling. But it was going to be a nice 4 mile trail run. The first half is a steady gradual uphill with a gut wrenching half-mile-plus steep uphill to half way. We took a breather before the attack of the abrupt elevation change. Then, I sent them off.
I watched them speed like antelope up the trail. Bounding with youthful legs. I sat back and watched. My mind flashed back to the numerous times I’ve run that same incline. So vivid are the memories … searing lungs, tree trunk heavy legs, arms pumping hard to maintain momentum, total focus on one step at a time, don’t look up – it’ll only discourage you, grinding it out, and then the release of tension as you summit… I was with them every step of the way; even if only in spirit.
After easing back down that narrow rock strewn path they took a short break. They panted. They complained how much it hurt. The complained that it had to be further than half a mile. They told of the legs like lead as they neared the top. They related that they thought the top would never come. They begged not to have to do a second rep up the slope. (To which I let them have their way even though I never intended sending them a second time.) And all the time as I listened without saying much (unusual for me) all I could think about was how much I wanted to feel what they felt.
Reversing the final portion of the route, the return offers a perfectly downhill sloped dirt road. The goal was to go as fast as possible this last 1.2 miles. I watched and my mind once again flashed back… remembering legs outstretched to full stride, feeling so powerful, quads ready to crumble beneath you from the all out effort, chest heaving, sweat flowing from every pore, glistening, air so still but the shear movement creating your own fan-like breeze, fighting off the doubts of keeping the pace to the end, seeing the end 400 meters down the dirt road and putting everything left into it, passing hikers, walkers and joggers like they were standing still, only to stop and feel a wave of relief, pleasure, exhaustion and exhilaration. I remember, oh how I remember.
They made it through and surprised themselves at how fast they could go even on tired legs. They were pleased with their efforts… and still complained how hard it was.
I didn’t say anything. I just listened. I was envious. I’m not sure they would understand. I long to feel what they felt. And now I wonder. That last time I ran this route so long ago, would I have run differently had I known, it were my last run? Would I have enjoyed it more? Pushed more? Would I have tuned into myself, the environment, others on the route more? Or would I have slowed down just to make it last longer?
I do not know if I will ever run that trail again. I have no idea whether I’ll ever run again. I do know this. If we ran every run as if it were our last run, we may all be better for it. So, to all of you, go… go run… run as if it were going to be your last run. I’ll be with you in spirit.