I miss running. Not training, or exercising. The running you do because you have some energy to burn and 40 minutes before you have to be anywhere.
I ran like that once this spring, just as Central Park’s blossoms peaked. It revived the buzz that brought me out to The Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir the first time I ran – here or anywhere. The buzz that set in motion a small addiction.
That first run was at the end of our first New York winter. I had that New Year’s feeling that brings with it the need to move. I ran faster than I could sustain for a full loop, as if shaking three months of red wine and apartment living from my legs and six months of first impressions through my system. My headphones crackled with the dry air but I left them on with Chris Martin wailing to St. Peter about ruling the world. A school group huffed past in the four-four time of long distance pacers as I ran under a half-pipe of cherry blossoms, which all but closed out over the fence.
I rounded the eastern edge and stopped short. The sun had paused behind the chunky pre-wars on Central Park West. Squares of sunset appeared like dropped stitches through the silhouetted El Dorado. Its rosy light skidded across the reservoir, into the upper-storey windows of Fifth Avenue behind me. Then the sun shifted. Dusk settled and darned the El Dorado’s western facade. I moved on.
I could have cried. Maybe I did. Only for a second but there probably was one tear that fell warmer than the ones already tickled out by the snapping wind.
I had to come back. Another loop, a longer path, more hills. Running gave me time in the day that didn’t exist before. It gave me a different view of the city. A soundtrack. By the the Fall I had paces to set and finish lines to cross. I even had other exercises to do to help me run! It could have been a slippery slope towards the squads of watery-eyed fresh-air junkies huddled over post-run coffees at Joe.
But it wasn’t the running. When I went out again recently, this time in the thick of the season, I realized it was just New York’s goading promise: Stick around for one more twilight. One more spring, autumn, dawn or dusk – those firsts you come to rely on when you’re away.