I have a favorite running path. It’s not very big. Just a bit more than 3 miles on an out and back. It’s about a 10 minute drive from my home. I don’t run there often since it’s fairly short – but each time I’m tapering for a big race or needing some solitude and mental freshness, I come back.
The path winds along a gentle stream, with clumps of wise old trees – some a hundred feet tall, arching protectively over it. There are weeping willows and holly trees with their red berries, maples, oaks and others – a ribbon of green, golden, brown and red leaves, delighting my eyes as I run along through the crunchy fallen leaves beneath my feet.
This path is very special to me. It’s only a few steps away from the birthing center where I welcomed my last two baby girls into the world. During those last two labors, my husband walked with me, hand-in-hand on this very path, stopping and patiently encouraging me through contractions as they rose and gripped my swollen belly with their pain and pressure, then eased off again. My husband and I used to joke that those labor walks were our only real dates since we rarely get away from the other children and that they were very special to both of us since we had some private time to connect again. We’d laugh and dream about what the new baby would be like – who the baby would take after, how wonderful it would be to nuzzle a newborn again – in between contractions. It was a special time, walking along near the stream, in the shade of the great trees, laughing at the baby goats, the sheep, the cows and horses in the corrals on the opposite side of the path, staring right at us.
As I ran today, I dodged gaggles of ducks, who stubbornly stood right in the path and only just moved out of the way as I came within a few steps of them. I said a bright, “Hello!” or “Good morning!” to the older couples I passed walking their little dogs or the families out for a nice, Sunday morning stroll.
My heart felt refreshed with every effortless step. My soul renewed with every smile back from a fellow runner or elderly couple. I let my legs choose the pace, as I often do when on this particular path – no pressure, no expectations – only freedom. My pace was easy and mild early on as my muscles slowly warmed up the first mile. The second mile felt even better as they relaxed into a comfortable pace. Mile three was even faster, as my own body decided to ease it up just a hair – though the effort felt no greater than the first easy mile. The final .25 was my time for some fun! I passed a couple walking a Dalmatian and enjoyed the pleasure of stretching out my stride for that final kick.
I feel good. I feel hopeful and content and will gently ease my way towards the starting line of next Sunday’s marathon. No pressure. I’ll do what I do come race day. A PR is fairly certain, since my earlier marathon times have been so incredibly slow. I’ll put no more pressure on myself than that for now. What will be, will be.
Stats: 3.25 miles. 9:49 ave pace. Time: 31:58
Mile 1: 10:40
Mile 2: 9:46
Mile 3: 9:36
Mile .25 — 7:33