I used to run more. More often. Longer distances. I used to run late at night and early in the morning. It was my avocation. Way back when I was a single guy, living in a one bedroom apartment, it was an easy thing to come home, lace up my running shoes and head out the door. I used to run to fill up the hours that I was alone. Even though I was alone when I ran, it didn't feel the same. Because it was intentional.
Those were the days when I would walk out of that apartment building and just start running. I picked a direction and ran off into whatever wind, rain, sleet or snow happened to be out there with me. I had my layers and protective gear. The important thing was just to keep moving. I ran until I thought I my legs or lungs might give out, but I kept moving. I wasn't training for anything in particular. I was running out of desperation.
The loneliness of the long distance runner is something I've been considering ever since my father first suggested that I take up the sport when I was a freshman in college. I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart, and I needed something to fill the time that I had previously spent pining for her. All of that youthful energy found its way into binge drinking as well, and so I became a sort of two-sport athlete.
Eventually I gave up the drinking, but I kept on running. I kept running to fill the void that was left from the lack of girlfriend and the lack of drinking. I got into the best physical shape of my life as I spent my days moving and assembling modular office furniture and my nights and weekends attempting to wear out as many pairs of running shoes as I possibly could.
I would like to believe it was this conditioning that made me a more attractive prospective mate. That and the sobriety seemed to be a selling point when my wife-to-be came knocking so many years ago. Suddenly I had other things that kept me from the marathon routes that had once been my preoccupation. Those late nights and early mornings started to fill up with social gatherings and couple-type commitments.
I got married and became a father. The miles I ran were fewer and farther between. When my son grew too big for the jogging stroller, I had visions of the two of us taking long runs together. To his credit, he has periodically gone along with his old man in attempts to share his mania, but it's not quite the same. As he grew older, I realized that he will eventually find his own obsession.
This weekend, I ran out into the hills of Oakland and didn't worry about when I was coming back. It felt like old times. Only when I got home, my family was there waiting. As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, "Lonesome no more."