Book Note: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
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Perfect Autumn Run

Last week wasn’t a good running week for me. I did a lovely run on Monday morning—a bit longer than I planned because I did a new route and totally missed a turn, and I was too blissed out to notice for a good half mile or so!—but on Tuesday, I woke up to an aching adductor. Even though I wasn’t sure if it was strained or just sore, I learned my lesson last year: back off if there’s muscle pain. So I didn’t run for the rest of the week. (It felt better by Friday but by then the week was so busy I couldn’t fit in any running time.)

What is interesting about not running is how much bigger my sugar appetite is. Chocolate-covered pretzels, fall M&Ms (the pecan pie ones aren’t very good. Which didn’t stop me from eating them, alas), chocolate chip cookies, a pumpkin spice frapp, hot chocolate several times, salted caramel chocolate squares. If I’m not running regularly, I find myself just constantly shoving sugar into my body, even when I know I’m not hungry and part of me doesn’t even really want it. I still eat sugar when I’m running, but I think about it less.

At any rate, it wasn’t a good week for my health, so I was happy to hit the road this morning.

Good fall run no1
It was raining when I got to the parking lot near the trail where I wanted to run. Not a light little drizzle, either (which I actually love running in), but a heavy downpour. Since I was ready to go though, I just waited in the car for twenty minutes or so, and was out the door the second it stopped pouring.

I ran four miles on a middle-of-Provo section of the Provo River Trail. I’ve recently discovered this part of the trail and am loving it. It has lots of bridges and tunnels and it is right next to the river in many places. Today I went north, and the day was perfect. The mountains here are dotted with red and a few swaths of yellow. The sky was heavy with clouds. It sprinkled off and on; there were puddles to dodge or jump over and just the lightest chill in the air. Plus, every curve in the trail seemed to have some little reminder that fall is very actively arriving: purple chrysanthemums on the stoops of apartments, a few leaves turning on the trees near the river, the grasses tall and golden.

Good fall run no2

Plus, over it all, my favorite scent, the smell of rain, which is always better in the fall because it has a slight undertone of fire.

As I ran, I thought about a conversation I had with Kendell recently, where I said “but I’m so happy when I’m running” and he said “running isn’t happy, it’s torture” and I laughed. I really do understand why it feels painful to run. Especially when I first start, when lungs still have to open up and muscles warm, when it feels a little bit awkward to be moving like this. Or when you’re almost to the turn-around point—nearly halfway done, but not quite, and it suddenly feels like you will never be able to make it back to the car. Muscles tug, joints ache a little, the mind rebels. Running requires movement to continue even when the desire to stop is nearly overwhelming.

I get it.

But for me, the happiness of moving overwhelms the negatives. The pain almost becomes one of the reasons to run in the first place. It makes me feel stronger to know that I can keep going anyway. It is the way my mind both wanders and settles, a mental experience that brings me a deep sense of calm. It is the connection with the body, pushing my legs along, feeling my muscles work. And it is always, always being outside, in any weather, but forever best in the autumn.

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