I love autumn. Here on the island, the yellow-leafed maples are intertwined with the evergreens, the skies are gray and rainy or blue with slanted light as the sun shifts south, the mountains wear their white winter coats, fog creeps across the water more often, the trails are muddier, the wind colder. As the world turns in this dying season, I’m reminded of how many times runners, too, inevitably fall in their own seasons of change, whether through injury, sickness, family traumas, work responsibilities, travel choices, or just plain ennui. But I also know, and am inspired by, how many times runners rise up in the face of personal difficulties.
I’m in one of those come-back kid, or in my case come-back crone, phases—my one-thousandth two-hundredth and seventy-third phase. I feel hope and joy in going out more days this month than last month, my long run is farther this month than last month, my total mileage is greater this month than last month, my total time is less, my fastest time is faster, and the steep hill I use to measure stamina did not defeat me. I went up without stopping. And that nagging thought in my mind that says, “You used to do all that in a week instead of a month,” I refuse to listen to.
The only negative, and it’s not really a negative, are all those lovely yellow leaves falling to the trails. They hide rocks and roots and holes and mud. As they rot, they slicken the trails. If I don’t concentrate on lifting the quads and pushing up with the calves and focusing on foot plants, I’ll engage in a spectacular face plant. I can hear John chortling now. He used to stand over me as I struggled to get off the ground, big grin on his face, and remind me that it’s a good idea if the mind and the body are in the same place.
Today the autumn sun is shining through those yellow leaves, the temperature is in the low forties, a long vee of snow geese are flying across the water, and the trails beckon. Run gently out there.