Sunday, September 25, 2011

'Beautiful Day'

Yesterday was a good day, for many reasons.

At 5:15 a.m., I drove in the dark to put out water, power drinks and food along my planned route, which would start and end at Grassland Park. The route that traverses farms, grassland and the Harpeth River follows Moran Road, Old Natchez Road and Del Rio Pike. Runners World magazine has a photo feature called "Rave Run" in each issue; yesterday's route would qualify.

My solo run began at 5:45 in snappy sub-50 air and with a Dire Straits shuffle on my iPod. I ran through patches of mist, which became increasingly enthralling as the sun slowly rose. On Moran Road, I gazed at horses, silhouettes in the misty dawn framed by barns in the distance. A red-tailed hawk chased a small bird, hoping to conclude the dance with a morning meal. Bluebirds chirped from fences, while mating doves watched them from a higher perch. The sky alternated between rose and sky blue before settling on a dominant azure.

A common sight along Moran Road

I stopped for only a minute at miles 3, 6 and 8.5, simulating the race I'll be running next month. Near Mile 6, my good friend Michael rode alongside on his bike, chatting for a few minutes before continuing his 40-miler to Leipers Fork. He was one of hundreds of bikers I would see; I saw only 10 runners the entire morning. Everyone said hello.

Part of the challenge of running 20 miles is the loneliness as the mileage increases. But I was loving the music, the scenery and cool air. After the Mile 10 turnaround, where my average pace was 10:40/mile, my knees began to ache mildly. As the discomfort gradually increased, I struck up conversations with Dori, as well as Chuck, Sigourney and other friends whose lives were cut short by cancer. Their soothing smiles gently nudged me down the road. The pain faded.

I picked up the pace the last three miles, finishing in three hours, 31 minutes, a 10:33/mile average pace.

Feeling good, I cranked up some U2 and drove to the fuel stops to retrieve my trash. When "Beautiful Day" started, I thought of the irony. That was Dori's favorite song. I shed some tears, something I hadn't done since early August. I thought, "Today is indeed a beautiful day, my love." I knew she was there with me yesterday.

This week's 36 total miles went very well. I have one more really long run, 22 miles, in two weeks. I would love for that run and race day to be similar to yesterday. Spirituality cancels the pain.


Ronni Gordon said...

Beautiful post, Jim. Your descriptions made me see and feel the whole thing.

Have you ever read Murakami's memoir, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running"? It's a very interesting look into being a long-distance runner.

Jim said...

Sounds interesting, RG. I will look it up. I am very glad you are doing well (and playing great tennis!).

PJ said...

I agree with Ronni--your post is a gem. I cried with you, as I sometimes do when I think of Dori. Most of the time, though, she's pushing me up a hill and letting me know that it doesn't matter how slow I am. And that makes me smile.

Donna Clements said...

I have logged a lot of miles on those picturesque roads. Your description was beyond beautiful and accurate as well. Very spiritual place.

That run was a gift - one you will always treasure.