ESSAY--Sometimes A Run Traps You ... Sometimes It Liberates

"Horizontal beams ... into an October cornfield."
(8-18) Sometimes a run traps you in the moment. Other times, it liberates you, transporting you far away. This is one of those times. 

After a long layoff from injury, the joy of today’s trail run is overwhelming. I feel an anticipation akin to what I used to feel when returning to college in the fall, or visiting my college boyfriend in the summer: excitement mixed with a “hurry-up-and-get-there” impatience.

I look at my watch; I am 5.5 miles into a 10k training run and realize I am going to best my
previous 10k time by over a minute.

I get light goosebumps on my legs while thinking this.

I glance to my right and notice that the morning sun has created an interesting pattern on the trail, with tall reeds growing alongside.  Seeing these I remember the pussy willows that used to grow in the lagoon near our Indiana house on Lake Michigan.  I reach out my hand to swipe them as I run by.

I get chills on my arms as I think about the lagoon, the bridges there, the lake beyond.

I look to my left, oh so slightly to my left, and I am transported; I am away.

The golden sun sends horizontal beams that manage to turn the grasses and reeds of the wetlands into an October corn field, with stalks cut down to the ground awaiting the coming snows that will bury them.  The sharp, short stems of the sheared stalks are golden and yellow and white in some places, the linear rows now all melded together.

“I’m lifted up, lifted up, lifted up…” plays in my ear, and I am away, but I am not lost.

I recall how I felt in the back of the station wagon on a fall trip to an aunt’s house. Clipped fields of Indiana towns named Plymouth and Warsaw go by and the repeating rows make me car sick and sleepy.

I also remember riding the Greyhound bus, heading back to school, through the vast cornfields of Brookston and Battle Field and Lebanon. I used to mentally urge the driver, go faster, go faster to the  campus and the Quad and the fountain and all that waited for me there.

I am on the train rolling east to see my friend, through summer-planted fields of Town of Pines and Trail Creek, feeling the rails, feeling the breeze from a window, feeling miles slip behind me and goodness up ahead.

And the song continues, the one that tells me it is okay to grow old in my own sweet time. The song I rediscovered this summer and which restored my faith in Bruce.

“I don’t see the summer as it wanes; just a subtle change of light upon your face.”

And the tingling in the top of my head feels like a cap and I am running above the autumn fields of Indiana and thinking of fall, school, Halloween, candy corn, Indian corn, golden autumn back home.

Call it endorphins, call it love, call it faith in memories and in life and in the power to transcend your own physical presence. Call it prayer, call it meditation, call it Zen or call it God.

“Sing away, sing away, my darling, we’ll sing away. This is our kingdom of days.”--By Betty Hagerty
Betty Hagerty now lives in So.
California. She has been a runner
for 26 of her 59 years.