The Long Run

The peace and tran­quil­ity of early morn­ing al­lows this run­ner to com­mune with nature.

More of Our Canada - - Contents - by Chris Brauer,

It feels like cheat­ing so early in the morn­ing. It feels as though I’m do­ing some­thing naughty or de­fi­ant as I tie my run­ning shoes. And maybe that’s part of the ap­peal. It’s 5: 17 a. m. and, as I qui­etly get dressed, both cats barely open one eye to see if I’m up to any­thing in­ter­est­ing. Sat­is­fied that I’m not, they go back to sleep.

The world is so still in the early-morn­ing light as I drive across the flats, trav­el­ling the rib­bon of high­way that cuts across farm­land and into the woods. I’m mov­ing for­ward more out of habit than be­ing fully aware of what I’m do­ing or where I’m go­ing. I like to think of my­self as a morn­ing per­son, but this is a ridicu­lous hour. My brain pleads to turn around and go back to bed.

I pull into the park­ing lot, peel my­self out of the car, wipe sleep from my eyes and am greeted by an in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of green­ery that has re­placed the grey of city streets. Any doubts I had quickly dis­ap­pear. I test out the road with legs still soft from slum­ber and in­hale the cool, crisp air. I take a deep breath, slowly ex­hale and close my eyes. I’m ex­pect­ing si­lence, but in­stead there is a ca­coph­ony of sound. There is no me­chan­i­cal hum or any sounds of hu­man life—in­stead, a nat­u­ral orches­tra in glo­ri­ous crescendo.

I hear the sound of the breeze, the stac­cato snap of in­sects buzzing and the bird­songs that seam­lessly flow from one solo to

another, com­ple­ment­ing each with play­ful repartee. I walk gen­tly, as if I might dis­turb this pri­vate con­cert, but I have come for a run and soon the sound of my breath­ing and the thump­ing of my heart drown it out as I pick up the pace.

Small, del­i­cate leaves flash their un­der­bel­lies danc­ing on white skele­tal branches. Early sun­light re­flects off lily pads in the still of dark wa­ters. The low­ly­ing grasses whis­per se­crets and the sun cracks through the shad­owy for­est, paint­ing the road in spo­radic beams of light. The road heaves and twists past moun­tain flow­ers that open to- wards the sky. I run past cat­tails and skunk cab­bage, and from the cor­ner of my eye, I catch shad­ows shift­ing. My shoul­ders re­lax as I make my way to the lit­tle bridge be­neath which clear wa­ters flow.

I have left the woods be­hind me, and the cows and horses in open fields turn their heads to watch as I re­lent­lessly con­tinue on. They blink slowly, chew their cud and then ig­nore me. But­ter­flies and drag­on­flies come out to play and zip by. Blue moun­tains pro­vide a back­drop to birds on a wire as I pass a small pond where ducks and tur­tles laze about in quiet re­pose.

Over another bridge, with its creak­ing and worn planks of wood, I pass canola fields blow­ing in golden waves. The nat­u­ral world over­whelms me. I can do noth­ing but sur­ren­der. I con­quer the long miles with­out be­ing aware of where I am or what time of day it is.

As much as this run has been both phys­i­cally and men­tally in­vig­o­rat­ing, I am ready to go home to my wak­ing fam­ily, have some strong, black cof­fee and re­join the world. I drive home feel­ing as though I’ve some­how done bat­tle. But, like any ad­ven­ture, I am both happy to have gone and happy to re­turn. ■

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