The Pleasures of Running, Part Deux

The good folks at WordPress have been nice enough to put one of my recent posts ‘The Oft-Missed Pleasures of Running‘ into their Freshly Pressed selection. This has resulted in an overwhelming number of new readers and some very nice comments. I’d like to able to respond to each one individually, but it is looking extremely unlikely. In lieu of that, let me just offer a collective ‘Thanks very much – your words mean a great deal to me’ and some more thoughts on my running experiences.

One of the reasons I developed what might be described as a ‘deep connection’ with running was that it provided aid and comfort through some difficult times. The summer that I referred to in my post, when I became extremely lean, was one such time. I had no financial aid from graduate school and no regular employment (I worked hourly as waiter once in a while, getting called in by my boss when she needed me), and to make things worse, my girlfriend and I broke up halfway through the break. I was up the proverbial creek.

For a few weeks, what kept me from going absolutely stark raving bonkers was running. I made sure to run as often as possible, even if, given my generally gloomy disposition, stepping out for a run felt very difficult. I lived on 95th Street and West End Avenue in Manhattan, and starting my six-mile loop in Central Park meant running first past Broadway, Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues till I got to Central Park West. As I would run, I would second-guess myself: Did I really want to do this? It seemed so tedious; my body felt stiff and lethargic; six miles seemed very long and the park very far away. At every light, I would consider turning back.

Then, magically, I was at Central Park West. I would cross the street, run across the lawn, and find myself on the paved road of the loop. At that point, everything faded away. All I had to do was keep running till I came back to this starting point. The simplicity of it all was refreshing; my actions acquired definition. Some fifty minutes or so later, I was done. Reinvigorated, renewed.

My favorite running story from that summer, unsurprisingly, mentions my grim financial state. Finding my waiter wages insufficient, I went looking for work as a bartender. I wrote up my name, address, and phone number on fifty index cards and starting from Soho one afternoon, slowly walked up Broadway (and later, Columbus and Amsterdam), stopping in at bars, inquiring about employment possibilities and handing out my ‘business card’ as I did so. Finally, after walking some one hundred and ten street blocks, I arrived at home, tired, sweaty, my feet just a little sore from all that pavement-pounding. Evening had set in, and the night lay ahead of me. My roommates were not at home, and I had no engagements to occupy me. No dates, no cold-beer-based encounters at bars awaited me. What was I to do, in this bustling city full of strangers?

I laced up my shoes and ran six miles.

4 comments on “The Pleasures of Running, Part Deux

  1. nurulthecook says:

    I started running 15 years back when I had huge stress with my girlfriend then (who then became the mother of my child). I haven’t stopped running since. Sometimes I don’t run for 6 months. But once I start, it’s hard to stop. Like a drug, I want it everyday. Except no hangovers or any other withdrawal symptoms. Just a few aching muscles and lots of stress gone!!

  2. ohlefty says:

    Fantastic. Personally I like biking better than running but running requires so much less crap to drag along…It’s somehow more personal because of this. I’ve recently started a new job with a horrible commute that leaves almost no free time for the bike, a run or anything else. But I’m inspired to squeeze running back in, thanks in part to your reminders that it only helps and can make difficult circumstances seem very far away.

  3. […] In the summer of 1994, broke and increasingly desperate, I roamed New York City, or rather, just Man…. I had worked as one before, in Newark, and hoped that I would find an employment venue which would provide me with the Holy Grail of bartending work: an interesting bar scene and plentiful tips. I could have looked for other kinds of employment; I did possess a graduate degree in computer science after all. But I was unwilling to take on a job that might suck me back into the world of nine-to-fivers, and part-time consulting gigs, after looking plentiful in the earlier part of the summer, had dried up again.  There was no campus employment to be found; my savings had evaporated; I had been reduced to being the recipient of handouts–leftover sandwiches–from a friendly waiter at a local diner. (Thanks Joe!) […]

  4. […] run regularly thanks to an old ankle injury; this latest bout of running marks a return of sorts to a much beloved activity of mine. I do not intend to risk injury and only run twice a […]

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