It wasn't the most peaceful of outings.
Sure, there was the gurgling creek off to the side, the occasional rustle of leaves, the sound of birds, the whir of bugs. There was a brilliant blue sky, the layers of green surrounding me, the sound of feet on dirt. There was a hint of that lovely fall smell, with just a touch of crisp in the air, the damp soil and soggy leaves the morning after a night of rain.
I was paying so much attention to my new stopwatch, fumbling with the tiny buttons, making sure I stuck to the prescribed program de jour: eight minutes running, two minutes off, four reps.
I ran outside.
A few months ago, the trainers agreed it was time to run. So I hopped on a treadmill, ran for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of walking, and repeated that four times. I came home and iced my foot and started second guessing whether I should've had that surgery after all. I rested a few days, came back, and tried again. It was so incremental as to be frustrating -- like learning to drive stick after you already know how to drive standard. Moving, but not; feeling terrific followed by that creeping, nagging sensation that your heel is starting to burn. When you've run a marathon, getting maxed out at 30 seconds for a total of 4 minutes of movement on a stationary machine is brutal. Outside the window the kids were walking to school and every one of them seemed more mobile than I.
But I did it. And gradually worked my way up through their program -- 1 minute running. 2 minutes, up to 12 times. 4 minutes running with walking breaks. And when I hit eight minutes running, they said I could go outside.
I missed everyone out there on my route -- the other runners, the long-distance club from the college, the walkers, the bird watchers, the tourists, the dog walkers, the lone equestrian. I missed what I've dubbed "the men's walking group" -- a gaggle of men circa 55-70 who walk in a pack, jawing about sports. Last year, they used to all wear sports sweatshirts, and break their conversation to holler a cheery g'morning to me. Yesterday, with their T's, they resembled an Obama bloc canvassing for that elusive squirrel vote. "How ya doin!" "Beautiful Morning!" I could almost hear them say, as they looked at me somewhat inquisitively, "Where've ya been?
Or maybe that was me.
"Wassup." (always said more as a statement, than a question.)
"Beautiful woodpecker up there at 2 o'clock!"
"Don't mind him, he's friendly!"
[silent head nod, clearly wrapped up in their iMusic]
Almost exactly a year ago this week, in a mad effort to burn my pregnancy weight and rid myself of this sad, saggy reminder around my midsection and hindquarters, my foot collapsed. The plantar fascia which runs down the arch had begun to separate from the point where it attaches to the heel. Yesterday I ran four or so miles. I'm a bit stiff today -- stiff enough that I'm resting my heel completely, simply stretching, wearing my arch supports. Hopefully tomorrow morning I can try this timed segment once again. If I can do it twice without pain, I graduate to running continually with no walking. Just running. Letting my mind flit instead of monitoring my watch.
Here comes that serious-looking runner guy again -- the one with the compact body and the serious clothes and the serious sunglasses. We said our good-morning's at the first pass, but I never know what to say when I pass someone for the second time going in the other direction.
"Have a good one!" he said, raising his hand.
I hope he didn't see me spontaneously break out into an enormous shit-eating grin.
"Thanks! You too!"