Half my life ago, I used to run forever. I would go out the door of my one bedroom apartment, down the stairs and just go. And go. About thirty years and forty pounds ago, that was the way I exercised. Over hill and dale I roamed. At the time I was lugging a cassette Walkman, the Sportsman model, so I could keep going to the sound of the music from mix tapes sent to me by my buddy from New York. Ninety minute Maxell UD-XLIIs meant I could go for forty-five minutes without having to stop and turn them over. This was my way of knowing how long I had been away. Side B meant that I should probably turn around and head back home.
To that one bedroom apartment. Which is where this all began. It may have been some sort of inspiration. Flee the solitude of that cramped space for the solitude of the open air and the prospect of doing something for myself. Every day, one day at a time, I was getting better and better. This was shortly after I had retired from drinking and drugs, so I was most definitely substituting one addiction for another. This was the healthy thing to do. At this point, it was easy to reckon my diet of TV dinners and Tombstone pizza with the amount of energy I was pouring into the sidewalks and trails. I was a lean, mean running machine. My human interactions were limited to those I had with the guys at work. The ones with whom I installed modular steel office furniture. At one point, one of them asked about all this running around I did. "What's your best time?"
"For what?" I responded.
"You know," he laid it out, "Your pace per mile. Your best five K or ten K?"
At the time I was running one race a year, the Bolder Boulder, with my father primarily because it was a point of contact with him. I told my interrogator, "I dunno. Less than an hour for a ten K."
"How much less?"
I knew that I could probably care more about time, but I was more interested in the miles I covered. The amount of time was only interesting me in terms of how much time I spent away from that one bedroom apartment.
Once I moved to a home, with a wife and kid to whom I could return, that wandering spirit left. I still enjoy being away and feeling that purposeful stride, but I am also acutely aware of the forces pulling me back. And somehow that feels more healthy to me.