I was on-call, and forced to carry my phone on a twenty-klick run. The result: photos, of course, and a bit of a story to go along with it.
I haven’t checked in for a couple weeks, but the shoes have been kneading the asphalt none the less. Since last report I’ve plodded my way up to a virtual distance nudging over eight-hundred and sixty kilometers for twenty-twelve, well on track to cross the one-thousand mark sometime in late October or early November. I’ve also (a) set a fairly respectable, college phys-ed-student crushing time in the Red Deer Terry Fox run (b) acquired a cheap, but unexpectedly perfect-for-running pair of headphones (since I do a lot of clicks on my own these days) and (c) completed, feeling great, a nearly-twenty klick Sunday morning jaunt this past weekend:
The temperature is dropping. The first full official day of autumn arrived and it was just barely over nine degrees Celcius at quarter after eight in the morning as I climbed out of my car and sauntered towards the standard meeting place. I’d checked in the day before so the plan to run a twenty-klick, hill-laden route was not a surprise. But the chill in the air was, and I had worn shorts.
Shorts are not a bad choice, even in such chilly temperatures. The rule-of-thumb we tend to follow, particularly in the fall and the spring when certainty is not as clearly defined in this climate zone, is to add somewhere between ten and fifteen to the ambiant temperature: this is the number that you will feel fifteen minutes into the run. So, at nine degrees, my range was a runner’s it-feels-something like nineteen to twenty-four. This is easily warm enough for shorts… just not five seconds after getting out of your car, that’s all.
We launched, nine of us, into our run: over the foot bridge, and then down the utility corridor and into the river valley. At quarter-to-nine as we descended into nature, a thick mist still hung in the air, and it had gathered in the low-spaces, blanketing the suddenly-changing foliage in a desaturated blur of greys and browns and yellows set against an azure sky. Thirty minutes and five kilometers pass quickly in such a setting, and I was a little sad to ascend back into civilization so quickly and abruptly, back on the unfamiliar streets of a suburb across the river, wending through Sunday-morning-trafficked sidewalks, past a busy golf course, and about an hour later back towards another natural descent.
By our second approach we were fourteen klicks into our run. At fourteen klicks — noting that this used to be the number I declared as “my wall” — the aches of the run have set well into one’s bones. Every step is felt with a little more impact. Every stride is deliberate. The sun was well up by then: it was past ten at that point, after all, and the mist had burned off.
We followed a gravel trail back into the valley, this one well-marked as the approach to a new-ish footbridge near Fort Edmonton Park. My watch beeped me into a much anticipated walk-break, and I found myself snapping a few quick photos, pondering the possibility of how I would describe this kind of multi-hour, transcendent-meditative run in the coming hours or days: Our little group of nine had degraded somewhat into a solitary march, a couple of pairs and a string of solo-ists plodding the route to completion. And running solo, even in a crowd is fine: but one’s mind strays and meanders in directions and speeds that are even more directionless than one’s feet.
At sixteen clicks there was a hill: and any hill, even a moderate incline, after one hour and forty-five minutes of running, is pain. From the bottom it represents pain. In the middle is feels pain. And after cresting the hill it is residual and monumental.
The last four klicks were a blur. It is funny how distance is so relative. There were runs, even as recently as this past summer — even as recently as this past week — where four klicks was the half-way mark. But on a twenty-klick run into foreign territory, the last four clicks is the victory trot on home turf: there is nothing short about it, of course, but it is the home approach, none-the-less. And I ascended the oh-so-familiar foot-bridge, trotted back down towards the glorious sight of the home shed, and stopped my watch as I ground out the last few meters of my landing.
I ached for hours afterwards — and still do, even a night’s sleep and a day’s rest later — but I don’t think it’s the pain I’ll remember as much those moments of tranquil pacing through an autumn mist. Epic.