As I prepare to leave in the semi-dark, my friend continues to sleep in the other room. I strap on my running watch and consider whether to conceal my stun gun, just in case. He doesn’t even wake up this early, I remind myself. He doesn’t know where I’m staying now or which trail I’m running today. But just in case, I take the bat. I hold it at my shoulder, rapidly unlock the door and swing it open. Clear.
I make the drive to the trailhead and park behind another car. I leave the bat, peel off my shirt and walk rapidly down the trail. I’m still a little twitchy, and as a squirrel zips by I eye big sticks I could grab, just in case. There’s nobody here. Just me and the squirrel.
I set up today’s run on my Garmin. For the first time since before the winter I’ll be running 40 minutes, the usual length of my easy run. I’m still not moving very fast, but this time I’m not eyeing my run time with disappointment. I start the timer and charge into the woods, exhilarated by the familiar crunching sound of my running feet. There’s a modest descent right away, and as I sail down it my trusty running watch makes a sounds I haven’t heard these seven months; I’m running too fast. I love that sound.
I smile and check my wrist. There’s absolutely no way I’m running a 7:15 pace, but I’m tickled all the same. I do not slow as I round a sharp corner.
The canopy of trees is lush and green, full of chattering birds and bugs. There’s a scent like lilies on the air, and my eyes roll back as I catch it. My neurosis over whether I am safe drifts away, giving way to the hypnotic cadence of footfalls, the easy flying of arms and legs. I’m a mess, but I’m all right too. I turn left and barrel up a weird, rutted stairway of single track. I careen between trees, picking my feet up over rocks and roots. I’m breathing a little harder now and running slower than I’d like. I forgive myself for disappointing me and keep running; at least I’m running.
There’s a straight section ahead, which pooled water partially obscures. Further ahead, a fallen tree crosses the path. Obstacles! I smirk to myself. Yay! Everyone I’ve ever run with avoid puddles. Not me; I plow straight into the center of the water, slashing mud up my bare legs as I throw up my arms, laughing like a fiend.
Now the fallen tree approaches, potentially perilous. Left foot or healing foot? Is it safe to land on my right? I don’t decide–and then I’m airborne, arms lifting as I bound over the tree and land on my healing foot.
I remind myself that my body know exactly what to do and it always has. I regard my feet with deep gratitude. I don’t know where I’m going, but they will carry me there if I learn to trust myself.