I got five and a half hours of sleep the night before. Not because of homework, or my wild social life (just kidding) (my social life is the least wild thing in the history of college students), or even relationship problems—I spent three hours I should have been sleeping talking a friend down from an anxiety attack. I was exhausted.
A more normal person would have stayed in bed until 2:00 pm. I did not.
I knocked on my friend’s door (a different friend). “Do you want to go for a run with me? Down to the water?”
Twenty minutes later, we had adjusted our iPods, double-knotted our shoes, and ran out the door.
The pace we set was higher than usual, and my lungs and quads began burning pretty quickly. We ran down Warner, towards Thirtieth; the leaves on the tree were turning color and the wind kept blowing them into our eyes. It was sunny, though; one of the last truly nice days of the year.
After skidding down the dirt path through the park (I don’t know the names of these places and frankly I’m a little too lazy to look them up), we arrived on the edge of the Sound. The water was very, very blue.
The wind picked up slightly, blowing my hair out of my face. We stopped running, and settled ourselves at the high tide line, where the water lapped our toes. I trailed my fingers in the water, and felt the sweat on the back of my neck evaporate. The sound of ocean hummed in my ears until it was all I could hear; that, and my heartbeat in my throat and temples and my wrists.
My friend yelped as a wave crashed over the tips of her sneakers. I laughed.
We ran along the waterfront; past a group of people taking photos of a silver fire hydrant, or possibly the warehouse across the street (it’s artsy, or something); past a man propped on the remains of one of the old cement blocks, in the water; past several fish houses and a painting of a man’s orange face.
“How do you think they did that?” my friend asked.
“With difficulty,” I said.
We turned to face the hill; we craned our necks up and up and up, until we were no longer looking at the quiet street but at the clouds that streaked the sky. We had to go back.
Our sneakers beat into the worn pavement. Our voices died, replaced with the ragged sound of our breathing. Up the hill. We ran.
Several days later, I tugged on an old regatta shirt with long sleeves and a pair of leggings. It was drizzling, and freezing cold outside. It was also 10:00 at night.
“I’m going for a run,” I told my roommate.
“Don’t die,” she said.
I ran down Union Avenue; it’s lit, and the orange glow from the street lamps cast everything in the shades of Halloween. I dashed past a glowing black cat clutching a pumpkin, several flickering jack-o’-lanterns, a ghost swaying from the trees. Trees, with their leaves barely clinging to the branches, obscured the night sky.
My heart hammered wildly in my chest. I kept running. My legs cramped, the muscles in my thighs seized. I kept running.
I had received a phone call at about 9:00 P.M., from home—one of my cats, at only seven years old, had taken very ill and died in the space of only two days. On top of everything else—it’s the time of year when my homework is piling up and my brain starts to fracture—I sprinted out my door, into the night.
The air cooled my burning eyes.
To be clear, I hate running. I have short legs and a rather curvy figure and basically that completely wrong body type for running. But running does something to me that most other forms of exercise cannot: it clears my mind. Rain, sun, night, day, wind, snow—it does not really matter to me. What does matter is the fresh air and the burning in my legs and lungs, and the comforting quiet of the nearby Tacoma streets.