|"Nature Boy," for Runner's World magazine|
I’d forgotten how many memories are held within my muscles; that after years of having not done a certain type of movement or walked along a certain type of terrain, how my body remembers, and then I wonder if it aches for these things as well.
This morning I went for a run at 6:30am. It wasn’t planned; I just woke up and decided to go. My neighbourhood looks different in the morning -- there’s a sleepiness about it that I enjoy. During the day, it’s cramped and loud and at times very aggressive, but at this hour the blocks that surround my apartment exist within a kind of in-between : dusk and dawn, slumber and wakefulness, even the air that touches my skin feels like a blend of both cool and warmth. I don’t run outside very often, much of my running is done on a treadmill and although I think a lot about many things while I’m doing this, today felt different because today I was remembering.
I reached the track about 2 miles from my apartment and decided to run a few laps around it to increase my distance. I have an app on my phone that records the details of my run; traveling from my apartment to the track, and then around it four times, and back home equates to about five miles. The track circles a soccer field, and especially in the spring and summer time it livens with people playing sports, exercising, or sitting on the grassy areas nearby. When I ran along it this morning, I remember what it was like running on a similar track as a child.
It’s a strange sensation when present experiences recall past ones that can make those memories seem almost tangible. When I stepped onto the track, I felt a rush throughout my body, like I had set foot into a brand new world. I could feel the rubber track of the surface push against the soles of my shoes into the bottoms of my feet and then surge upwards into the rest of my body. I began running faster and felt my posture change slightly, as I rounded back my shoulders and glided forward. My breath pulsed out from between my lips and I saw the bands of white on the surface to the left of my feet, and so I ran as close to it as possible without stepping over the line. As I rounded the corners, I tilted sideways slightly, and felt the muscles in my ankles and thighs engage, and strengthen. I ran faster.
The last time I ran on a track like this was when I was fourteen years old, and competing in a relay race. I was the third runner in my leg of the race, and our team was competing against the other schools within our district. We spent hours after school practicing for this moment; building each other's spirits, learning the rules of the course, how to run more efficiently, and ways to pass the baton seamlessly to one another to sustain the team’s rhythm. We wore our school uniforms, which were blue, white and silver, and I competed on a huge track in the middle of a stadium surrounded by student competitors from other schools. I remember the feeling of exhilaration as I stood on my mark, waiting for that moment until I felt the cold piece of metal in my hand. And when I did, I launched forward into infinite, and I don’t think that I thought about anything else at that moment except for running.