On the morning of September 11, 2001, after I got the first news that something had gone horribly wrong back east, I went out for a run with my Walkman and listened to the coverage on Morning Edition. I remember the morning in a crystalline way: hearing Bob Edwards stumble as he tried to make sense of the news of the Pennsylvania crash, my headphones filling my ears with disaster as I ran through the sunny streets of the Mission, stopping to water my garden plot and just thinking No No No.
I ran that morning because I wanted space to understand the magnitude of what had happened. I ran often in the days, weeks, and months that followed because I came to love that space, and the way air flowed into and out of my lungs as I moved, and the feeling that when the music in my ears was right and my legs were working together I could keep going forever, could close my eyes and run and run and run.
Just where I picked up running I'm not sure. I more or less loathed running as a kid, and stuck to walking and hiking throughout college, and never, as far as I can recall, ran in my early days in San Francisco. Perhaps it was G. who turned me on to it, or maybe it was something I'd turned to by necessity when the ellipticals and bikes were all in use in the gym. I only know that in 2001, I became a Runner.
Which I remained, off and on, for the following years. Earlier this year, though, I fell out of the habit, often running once a week or less, looking un-longingly at my sneakers as they sat unused on the mat in my front hall, feeling my legs soften. But then I came to my senses.
Now I'm back on the pavement, iPod in hand, ponytail swinging, legs moving in their impossibly graceful (and occasionally seemingly effortless) way, lungs more or less working as they should. And I've rediscovered that space--that space where regret disappears, where everything becomes possible, where all that isn't or can't or won't be slips away, at least for a while. There may come a day when my knees give out, or my lungs stop cooperating, or running and I fall out of love, at which point I'll have to set my sights elsewhere.
For now, though, it's all blissful, and I can only look forward to my next runs--like the one I'll get to take on Saturday afternoon when I'm back on the Vassar campus, and will have time to set out for the trail behind the field house, where it's quiet and calm and full of memory. I can't wait.