“A Leisurely Run”
Michael W. Sheridan
Twenty years ago, at a time when I ran daily for pleasure, and the pain, I explained to my wife one Saturday midday that I was embarking on a 5.5-mile jog into town from our rented mountaintop house in the country outside Hamilton, New York. I said she should drive to a familiar parking lot outside Colgate University’s athletic complex; I’d be waiting.
Leave exactly 35 minutes after I’m out of sight, I said. I’m running eight-minute miles, and that, with drive time, should put us there simultaneously. Upon her insistence I handed her a slip of paper with my prospective route, should I disappear.
I gathered my thick stick from the garage, to ward off dogs, fitted it into my gloved hand and was off. I recall it as a vibrant, refreshing run with just a dusting of snow in 30-degree air with a bearable wind. In fact, for conditions, today is that day revisited, which reminds me of the occasion.
Upon arrival, exhilarated, I stood and panted. I stomped, stretched, walked in a circle, watched my breath rise and dissipate. Warm sweat quickly turned cold as minutes passed; I peered up and down the village street. I tried the gymnasium entrance doors. It being a holiday weekend, Colgate was locked up tight. There were not cell phones then, nor could I have afforded one, and we were new enough in our hilltop money pit that no phone had been installed. I knew not a soul in Hamilton.
I was irritated now, and the breeze had picked up, carrying heavier, faster flakes. After 20 minutes, giving up on my carefully planned ride, I began the slow, stiff re-run out of town toward the hills surrounding Lake Moraine. I shivered, my layers and gloves and watchcap wet, thinking, “this time it’s uphill.” I had set my psyche on 5.5, not eleven. Irritation turned to anger as I reached the outskirts and lifted my stinging face toward the hills and heavens. Damn it, can’t she get anything right?!
But, as I warmed again and loosened, suddenly came that “high” particular to long-distance runners. I welcomed the challenge, even parted my cracked lips in a grin. “I will eat you up, you hills!” I shouted, picking up the pace, running on the crown, looking down on the freezing lake. Some unselfish thoughts came to mind.
She was eight months pregnant. She’d have to have dressed and loaded our four elementary school-age children into the old Plymouth Volare wagon — and that stupid Volare had an intermittent habit of not starting. I knew to tap the solenoid with a hammer, but she didn’t know that trick. What if the wood stove, which we city slickers were just beginning to understand, had caught the house on fire?
I broke imaginary records reaching the summit in a full-scale storm at dusk, and turned into the drive. There she was, bulging, Volare hood up, the kids huddled around her.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.