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