Today I ran one of the most beautiful courses I've ever done with my friend Shirlee. The half marathon started at the Santa Cruz waterfront, wound along West Cliff, wandered out beyond Natural Bridges State Beach and looped Wilder Ranch. That loop was by far the best part of the 13-mile run. I've had the pleasure of running along many beautiful beaches - Santa Barbara, Malaga, Tenerife, Hawaii - but today the waves were crashing so high that as we followed the coastline, our feet clipping the bluffs, we were dusted in ocean spray. The bluffs followed an ess curve and with every bend you could make out a long line of runners dotting the opposite cliff. Sometimes I think this is how humans should move - all of us chugging along at our own pace, in twos, threes, and fours, occasionally breaking the line just to feel that momentary thrill of leading the pack.
Sometimes I feel the best about my body when I'm running.
There is something that happens when I am racing, usually around mile 10. I find someone ten yards ahead and decide it's time to beat them. As soon as I get on their heels it's time to pick the next person. And so on. Today I noticed new magic. All I had to do was name the color of their jersey, and before I knew it I'd catch them. Purple. Blue. Pink. Red. It felt like writing. Name a feeling and you feel it. Describe an action and there you are, ten steps forward, ten times faster. Running falls somewhere between careful calculation and a complete freedom to be - it is a measurable escape, a feeling I crave often.
Mile 12 is intolerably long and today I found myself chanting a little mantra. This is something I can do. This is something I can do. When I was first running with my dad, I'd remember the trains from Shining Time Station and the way they'd chug, I think I can I think I can. At some point I dropped the think.
How wonderful things can be when you don't have to think, when muscle memory is good enough. I love it when I'm running and I forget for a moment that actions have consequences - that on nights like these, after long runs, I must set alarms to test my blood sugar in the middle of the night, or that, everywhere I go, I'm zippered up with all kinds of sugar. I think I can? No, this is something I can do. And did -- with my boyfriend's mom Shirlee, who has run six of these babies before. Talk about badass. And at the finish line, there they were - Ryan, my parents, his dad, our dog Taj, the ocean itself. All limbs still functioning, all organs intact.
I have a few friends who run the full 26.2-mile marathons and my respect for them (and their knees!) deepens with each race. I don't know if I'll ever run that far in one go, but I think, maybe, someday I can.