I stood, bent at the waist, my head in my hands, not knowing how to keep going. We had only just started running, but I felt empty. Just empty. Like there was nothing inside me to burn, nothing to help me push off, one foot from the other, and run.
I could have cried, but didn’t. M waited.
But I was there. We were in the woods. On the trail. What could I do? What could it hurt to try? So I ran. I’m not really sure how, but I started over.
“Just keep your feet under you, ” I thought. “Just find whatever rhythm is there,” I thought. What seemed impossible started to happen, and though I still felt empty, my legs were running. I was moving, and eventually that stopped hurting, and everything went blank. Just running.
I hadn’t slept well. Woke in the night with a sore throat. Woke in the night and felt tired beyond tired. The alarm went off, but I couldn’t foresee getting up. I thought about all the ways to not go run, but M was waiting for me, and “Maybe,” I thought, “if I just show up, if I just shuffle my way through, it’ll be alright.”
M was kind. We stretched, then walked a little. By the time she stood in the trail, waiting for me to resolve whatever crisis I was having, she must have thought the run wasn’t happening at all.
It was as though I couldn’t get my engine to catch, the ignition clicking, the pistons flooding with gas, but nothing. Nothing.
And then, as I said, I was running again. And once I found the cadence, I felt for the first time I’d be ok, at least for a while. Improbably, I pushed the pace, not to make a point, but just to see what would happen. Maybe I popped the clutch, and on a straight, flat stretch got the old jalopy going at last.
I ran harder than I thought I could and waited for my body to slow me down again, but it didn’t. From nowhere I found the flow of a real run, and Meghna said out loud, “You’re fine!” And I grunted, not wanting to saying anything, not wanting to jinx it.
Five miles later, from nothing, it had become a great run. We high-fived as we came back across the footbridge into the meadow and let ourselves walk the rest of the way to the car.
I don’t know what’s happening with me. I don’t know where I am in my body or with my fitness. I was as surprised by that run as by any I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine that’s it, that everything is just back on track now, but sometimes thinking about it is a waste of time. I’ve thought too hard for too long, and I still don’t understand anything.