Fall is my favorite time of year. I get lost in the colors and the quality of the light. Everything is golden. It’s so beautiful it never fails to take my breath away. Many Portland trees stay green all year around, but the deciduous ones lend their personality to the fall, one of my favorite times to run. I love it best in the afternoon when the sun and the golden translucence of the leaves conspire to cast a beautiful glow over everything; the sidewalks are littered with burnished gold, brick red and bright yellow leaves that crunch under my feet and the smell in the air is clean and tart.
There is no more exuberant feeling in the world than when I am running in these perfect conditions, with good music on my mp3 player, and I’m in what I (and other runners) like to refer to as “the zone”. Fall is about being on the verge of something spectacular, about change, hope, golden light.
But as Robert Frost said, nothing gold can stay… and inevitably the days get shorter and shorter, the sunlight fades and when it does appear it is so brief that it never fails to bring to mind a Ray Bradbury story I read when I was young called, “All Summer In a Day”, and all of the sudden I am Margot, trapped in an endlessly gray and gloomy existence and when the sun does grace us with an unexpected appearance I am locked away and cannot witness it or feel it’s warmth on my face. My anxiety levels rise, as do the numbers on my scale. I can’t quite seem to get out as much, and sometimes I run in the pouring rain and my muscles are cold and I never quite get into the groove and every joint in my body aches. I have, once or twice, run on the “dreadmill” at the gym. The air was stale and I was way too close to some guy emanating garlic from his pores and singing along (loudly) with the music on his IPod.
Once in a while when it is cold, really cold, I bundle up and go running early in the morning and there is no traffic and the world around me is blanketed in a silence so precious and I can hear my feet striking the ground and if I take off my headphones and listen I can hear my breath and I can see it too. I feel blessed in that moment and fortunate to be alive. Sometimes I think that running is the only thing I do that makes sense, but then I realize that is not true; it’s just that running is the thing I do that helps me to make sense of everything else.
When I am finally so tired of the dark of winter …
There is spring. It’s getting lighter outside, everything is blooming, all life is emerging and turning its face towards the light, me included. Birds are busy hovering around in the giant tree in our back yard as it breaks out in blossoms the color of French Vanilla and it is glorious. I can take off my layers when I run. I increase mileage, feel like I’m really training again and get shin splints. I’m wearing shorts for the first time of the year and my legs are ridiculously pasty. I drop a few pounds. It’s light when I get to work and light when I get off. It is still raining, but the rain is fruitful, everything is blooming.
And then there is summer.
Warmth, glorious sunshine, runner’s high, endorphins; marathon training. Long runs, I mean the really long runs and the resulting comradery that comes with them. There’s a heavy sweet scent of what I refer to as allergies in the air. It’s easier to make healthy meals consisting of things like chicken fresh from the grill with corn on the cob and salad fresh from the garden.
Tuesday night hill workouts recommence.
At times I complain about the weather. Wishing for fall…it’s too hot, I’m too busy, and I’m doing too much. Marathon training is exhausting! I’m exuberant, I’m reading all kinds of training books; I’m absorbed in the music on my playlists. I’m obsessed. I’m sore.
Then…before I know it…I’m running the marathon. Every single mile I put in the bank over the summer is coming to fruition, and it was worth every single blister, every night of aching muscles and ice packs…It is so bittersweet!
Because now it’s fall … again.
Fine print: I haven’t ran the Portland Marathon in three years but in honor of those who have been training all summer, especially my good friends Todd Prior and Jason Lupo, I thought I’d share this as it was written the fall I ran my last marathon.