Running On Cruise Control

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running on cruise control

About two months ago, I began running. It just felt like it was about time. 

As of composing this piece, I’ve run 118.7 miles in those almost exactly two months. 

My feet have taken me alongside rivers, over highways, and away from an extremely territorial Maltese. 

They’ve taken me by neighborhoods with handsome multi-level mansions. 

They’ve taken me past burned-out shacks, abandoned, and likely occupied by the homeless. 

The promise of a novel view of the various corners of my city from atop tenderized soles, occasionally numb toes, burning calves, creaking knees, tired hips, hungry lungs, and—yes—the periodically chaffed nipple—is one of the few things that I’ve found to successfully get my stiff feet onto the cold floor of my bedroom at 6 AM. 

Ok—maybe more like 6:30. 

The sensation I experience is akin to the first week of receiving your driver’s license. Even if you were able to get a ride anywhere before, you’re now free to go travel wherever you want on your own steam. The world looks different from behind the wheel of your own vehicle as you travel on your way. 

Getting even a fraction of that distance into my world simply on my own two legs conjures a similar feeling and perspective on scenes I take for granted—like receiving court-side seats for my surroundings rather than up in the nosebleeds in the form of an automobile. 

Running past, the reciprocated nods and passing “g’mornings” between labored breaths to fellow pedestrians grounds me among my fellow villagers. More than neighbors, we share the kinship of being fellow bi-peds—experiencing our community one step at a time.

By a different token, opened-palm waves to drivers are rarely returned. For at least half, their gaze is usually directed illegally downward into mobile device screens as they fly past. 

One of the most unique sensations crept up recently—one that made me feel confident in my ability to claim my identity as a runner. This was the instance where I forgot that I was running. 

Instead of being keenly cognizant of each foot strike and the perpetual need to fill my lungs with new air, as I ran, I grew pleasantly detached from myself and began to experience my passing surroundings like a passenger in a motorcycle sidecar. 

I observed the wind swirling freshly relinquished leaves. My eyes followed the lines of the stylized graffiti that had been sprayed on the sides of rusty warehouses. I welcomed lofty office buildings on the horizon as they seemed as though they were rising higher from the pavement the nearer I came to their bases.

This is not a state I believe I’ve ever attained while simply walking or even riding a bicycle. The strenuous nature of running combined with the freeing simplicity of foot travel makes this state possible. I have no doubt that my brain chemistry is being manipulated to make this sensation so—but I’ll gladly take it. 

The more miles I put on my soles, the easier it has become the engage my anatomical cruise control and take in the scenery—not just the sights, smells, and sounds, but also the textures. For the first time, I have favorite city streets based on how they feel as they make contact with the soles of my feet. I’ve grown keenly attuned to the topography of my own side of town—experiencing hills I hadn’t noticed while driving up and down them in a car. My perspective of the place I call home is enhanced to reveal vibrant detail because I am  experiencing it in a way I never had before—on foot. 

If on your next morning drive you see a long-bearded cinnamon-and-sugar ginger in a NASA trucker cap and loud red rubber moccasins running by, consider looking up from your phone to wave hello. I’ll likely wave back and grunt out a “mornin’” between labored breaths.

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