I did four and a half miles of hills in my home town today, thinking of my friends just ten miles away to the east across the Potomac River running in the National Marathon and Half, a Rock and Roll entity now. Back in the day, the National Marathon gave me my PR in 2007 and the next year I ran my second fastest HM in the National Half, before I got injured and became overweight again during my layoff.
So this morning, fifteen months into my return to some semblance of running after being away for fifteen months, for fifty minutes I lugged around my extra twenty-five pounds and ran by some old spots. I have lived in this town for twenty years, alone for the last ten, and memories sometimes crowd in as I shuffle along.
I pass by a house where a friend of ours died one night unexpectedly. I accepted the story then that the friend just lay down in bed and died, but I wonder now if it was perhaps a suicide.
Here's the empty parking lot of the elementary school I attended over half a century ago, where the mother of my children works as a teacher now. She has steadfastly refused to share any information whatsoever with me for years about our three children, who turned against me as adolescents shortly after she filed divorce papers, and I wonder if this cruel woman would even inform me if something terrific, or terrible, ever befell any of these three young adults.
I approach the half mile long steep hill that is the crown jewel of hill running around here. I remember taking the person who was my best running buddy ever up it once several years back and laughing as she stood at the top bent over with her hands on her knees sucking wind, and I wonder how she is faring on the west coast where she moved to a few years ago.
The bicycle bridge spanning the highway which provides a slight uphill is up ahead and I think of all the running friends I have accompanied across the bridge on its clattering wooden surface and slightly swaying structure. None of them are with me now, and I have run with only one or two of them at all in the last year.
I am approaching my neighborhood mile, a measured distance from my driveway that used to provide me with my version of speed work as I burned off three or four sub-seven-minute miles in a morning, interspersed with household chores. Now I reflect that the best mile since my return was a solitary 8:02 several weeks ago, and I shake my head as I feel the overhang over my waistband.
I was forty-eight when I started running and for years I ran five times a week, raced weekly and was svelte and swift enough not to be embarrassed; now I will be sixty in a few weeks and I run four times a week, don't race anymore and am overweight and slow enough to be embarrassed. Memories are bittersweet at best.