When I stepped around it, toward the canyon and its beckoning river trail, the wind hit my face with that knify chilliness that only happens in spring. Maybe it's the contrast: it looked so beautiful out, with the bright blue sky and the wispy clouds and the mountain with a fresh white overlay of snow. You can't tell it's windy if the trees don't have leaves—and the light was so bright and beckoning.
The wind so threatening.
My stride faltered for a second. But then I took a deep breath, hit the START button on my watch, and started running.
I'm still working up to running for a full forty minutes. I'm following the doctor's advice and building up slowly. Last week, during two different runs, I ran an entire mile without walking. I did on Monday, too. Today, I'd worked up to running for five minutes, walking for two. I do five repeats of that, then add an extra five minutes for a total of forty. Instead of doing a full mile this time, I kept running for seven minutes during the third repeat.
All of which is to say: I don't really know how far I ran today. I do know, though, that I continue to struggle with the mental aspect of this recovery. I know my stride is different—more stilted and less confident. Every time I find myself forgetting to be afraid of falling and actually, thoroughly, enjoying the run, I yank my mind back to the possibility of an accident. It goes back to those moments right after I'd fallen, before I actually even pushed myself up off of the pavement, when my running psyche was filled with certainty that I'd fallen as a sort of punishment from the running gods: I wasn't ever cocky (impossible with a 8:45 pace), but I was confident. I felt fast. And strong. And then I fell and just like my ankle continues to carry the ache of a periosteal bruise, I can't quite rid myself of my insecurity.
There's also this fact: stopping to walk is frustrating. Only running short distances is, too. Mentally, I can keep going forever. Physically, not so much. My slow build up is doing what it is supposed to. My ankle hurts less. It feels weak less often. The muscles I tore don't ache all the time. It isn't back to normal, but at least it is improving. But my heart wants to go. My mind—even with all that fear—wants to go. And keep going.
So that's why, even with that bitter wind, I started running. (Also because I knew once I got into the narrower part of the canyon, the wind wouldn't be as bad.) And why I kept up my run/walk/run/walk pattern. Because I still need to move, and movement on a treadmill or an elliptical, while sustaining my body's needs, doesn't sustain my spirit. I need what I got today: the blue sky, the river getting louder, that white, pristine visage of Timp coming into and moving out of my perspective. The way, running up, the light hit the naked trees and made them glimmer. My sunglasses fogging when my face got too hot; eventually pushing up my long sleeves because without the wind, it was almost not chilly. The chilly gleam of frost still on the deeply shadowed parts of the trail, and the pale filtered sunlight fragments shattering around the trees. I wasn't the only one who felt it; ever runner I met said a friendly "hello," as if they, too, needed to share how this felt. This moving in the beautiful world.
This exuberance of spring-fed joy.
I made it back to the parking lot without falling (although I did nearly go down when I ran across a wooden bridge that was still icy). I finished my forty minutes. And I felt filled. Refueled, even. I sat on the cement bridge near the parking lot to stretch, and I breathed in deep: fresh air, sunshine. Running has taught me many things, and in this season it is teaching me something else. Patience, I suppose. The willingness to do what my body needs even when it contradicts my mind's needs. A growing knowledge of my own physical weakness, and how I won't always be able to do this—put on a pair of running shoes and go running. I want to keep running for as long as my body will let me.