Sundays are recovery runs, and last weekend was no different. I go out slow, relaxed, stretching my legs from Saturday’s long run, taking a route with only vaguely known distances, allowing myself to turn around when I feel like it. It’s a low-pressure day, and it’s usually fairly pleasant.
I started stiffly, a bit sore from the day before. Just keep at it, I told myself. It takes you about a mile to warm up. Then it gets easier.
Not a mile, said a memory. Two kilometers.
And suddenly I was back running the loop I used to do in high school, training for a half marathon. Knowing that if I could just make it the first 2K, up to the first left turn, I could make it all the way. I could picture the brilliant snow, the sharp winter sun, the roads that were sloppy because they hadn’t been completely plowed. Street after street of clean suburban houses, in developments too new for mature trees. Crisp air. Footing that was crunchy or icy or wet. I ran that route in bad weather, too, including the dark gray obscurity of a heavy fog, but it’s the bright blinding days that merge together into a single memory of the joy of running.
The enveloping happiness of the memory caught me by surprise. My brain doesn’t really do happy memories. Its recollections mostly come with hard stabs of embarrassment or deep pangs of nostalgia and longing. But this memory was good and inviting and warm.
The rest of the run went by in a pleasant daze, filled with more details of the past. I could imagine what I used to wear to run: fuzzy green sweatpants, thick socks, double-layered gloves, a close-fitting knit hat. And the same long-sleeved cotton shirt I had on at that very moment.
It was altogether the most joy-filled run I’ve had in quite some time. Alas, the spell broke in the last few hundred meters, when I had to dodge around the new posts blocking the path to our neighborhood and my mind switched to thinking up choice names for the members of our HOA board.