October 22, 2012

Eyes on the horizon

For the past few months, I have been back to running on a regular basis. As much as I enjoy running, it is easier to get out if I am training for a race. For a variety of reasons, it was difficult to commit to a particular race this time around, but I had a vague target of running a marathon before the year was over.

When I was running in Washington, I almost always ran in the evenings. As more of a night owl, it was just a better time for me physically. My body was warmed up, my mind was clear, and it was a great way to drop off any work frustration before I brought it home. For the past three years in San Diego, I have had to transition to running in the morning to beat the heat. For most of the year, if I didn't get out the door early, the sun would take more out of me than the miles.

And, I've actually gotten used to running in the morning. Still not the best time of day for me, but running seems to change that for the better. However, one benefit to our brief period of fall temperatures is being able to run in the afternoon and evening again. This past weekend I ran a 12 miler in misty rain, something that gave me some Washington flashbacks.

The previous weekend, I couldn't get out for my long run until after four o'clock. I had to get 18 miles in, and sundown was only two hours away. Not only was I getting to run in the evening, but I would end up running in the dark.

Every time I run around the bay, I pass by vacation rentals and hotels filled with out of town guests enjoying the sunshine. Seeing them sitting on their patios relaxing with a beer makes me a bit jealous at times, but it reminds me to appreciate that I get to run here all the time. I ran by these folks again on Saturday, but I also ran by five different weddings on my first 12 mile loop. White chairs on sand, flowered arbors framing the couples and the ocean backdrop. What a beautiful place to start your new life together, even with runners like me passing through their field of vision.

The weddings of course set my mind on a different path. What I've lost, what might have been, what the future might look like. How beautiful my own wedding day was, and how I didn't appreciate what I had until it slipped away. After finishing the loop around Mission Bay, the sun was now getting low on the horizon. I stopped at my truck to refuel, threw on a reflective vest, reversed course and made my way around the west side of the bay again.

The air was cooler, and the paths were starting to clear. Most everyone was heading inside, but there were a few of us chasing darkness. The chairs on the sand were now empty, the celebrations having moved on, but flowers still decorated the aisle they had walked down.

It is easy to get lost in your thoughts when running for hours at a time, and even easier to endlessly stare at the pavement in front of you. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to raise your head to see all you are passing by. Recently, I have been looking around more, taking in what I can, while I can. This particular Saturday was something else though. The shift to running in the evening would have been enough to cast everything in a different light, but it really felt like there was more there, there.

Without a clearly defined target, my training hasn't been as disciplined as in the past. I knew I wasn't shooting for a personal best this time around, and the plan was just to enjoy the experience of race day. Things are starting to take shape, and the challenge is going to be tougher than planned. Time is also getting short down here, with my move day just three weeks away. Every time I pass by something now, I wonder if it is the last time for a while. It is starting to sink in, and I know it is going to get tougher.

I didn't have a camera with me, but as the sun went down, I remembered that my iPod could shoot video. So I stopped running, and stopped to appreciate it.

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