When I first started running, back in the seventies, I ran mornings, eight to ten miles before work. I liked the coolness of early day, the quiet before cars and busses began their treks from home to office or school, the solitude of the trails or roads, the darkness of winter or the yellow promise of summer. And when I got home from work in the late afternoon or early evening, I liked slipping into old clothes or pajamas and reading or writing or watching movies or listening to music and eating. I chose my first ultramarathon because it started at four in the morning. And I won that race, thanks to the brilliant aid from my daughter and my youngest son’s high school track team yelling “Go Mom” every lap. All this is not to say I didn’t sometimes run in the evenings. But morning runs were my joy.
Then I met John. Our first semi-official get together was to run the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials course in Olympia, Washington. On a Sunday afternoon. In the heat. With lots of other people running around too. If he hadn’t been a talker and a storyteller, those twenty-six plus miles would have been a motivational challenge for me. I would have been looking for shortcuts home long before the finish line. I soon learned that John was an afternoon runner, an after work runner. He liked to shed the stresses of the workplace in the evenings. He liked that time wasn’t an issue after work. He liked to go as far as he wanted, as slow or fast as he wanted, or walk if he wanted. He felt freer in the evenings. Over time, I transferred most of my runs to the evenings too. Because I wanted to be with him.
When we went to walk the Camino de Santiago, our six-hundred-mile trek across Spain, we would talk about all the pilgrims that had also walked those trails, stumbled across those rocks, sat beside those rivers and crossed Roman-built bridges, slept under olive trees, and found shade in the coolness of medieval churches. For more than a thousand years, pilgrims had been walking. We felt their presence beside us, we felt their hands brushing against ours, we heard their laughter and understood their joy.
I’m back to walking mornings. Sometimes running. Back to the coolness under the leafy trees of springtime, back to the quiet. I miss my afternoon running companion, but I feel him beside me now in the mornings. I feel his hand brushing against mine. I feel his joy. I think he just might be a morning runner now.