Today it was too nice outside not to go on a run. Naturally, I was not the only one taking advantage of this perfect afternoon. I crossed paths with at least a dozen runners, mostly skinny girls in neon sports bras and baggy tank tops with sorority letters. I remember, my freshman year I was walking with a friend when he turned to me and said, “Look at them,” gesturing at two girls, their perfectly fit and tanned bodies barely covered by sports bras and tiny spandex shorts, “They run so they can stay in shape and attract future husbands. As soon as they get married, they’ll all get fat.” I don’t think this is entirely true, but it did make me realize that for the most part the runners I saw were either fit young men and women, or fit middle-to-late aged men. There seemed to be an interesting absence of middle aged women who went running. Maybe they all went to gyms instead. Or did yoga. Who knows.
I also ran past a number of guys that looked like the cross-country runner type. Meaning tall, thin, often sporting the t-shirts that they hand out to participants of 5K or half-marathon charity runs. I wonder how many miles they run each week. I can depend on the sorority girl count to dwindle as the fall progresses and the temperature drops, but these are the guys you see out even when there’s snow on the ground.
Somewhere along Cayuga Heights Rd. I ran past a man in bright blue running attire, whose headphones were blaring loud enough for me to make out the song on his ipod. As we crossed paths, he grinned at me and raised his hand for a high-five. I was a bit startled and only managed to stared back. As soon as I had run past him, I wish I had raised my hand and completed the high five – I was in half a mind to turn around and yell, “Wait! I want to give you a high five! I am the kind of person who gives high-fives to strangers! You just caught me off guard…” But of course I didn’t, I just kept running.
The route that I’ve been running recently starts at my apartment and goes to Sunset Park in Cayuga Heights (a mostly flat 3-mile loop there and back). The sun was just starting to set – but not quite approaching the stage where the sky suddenly bursts into colors. The sky was full of Jesus clouds – my preferred term for the phenomenon where just a few sunbeams can be seen escaping through the clouds. The kind of backdrop image onto which Bible quotes are printed, you know. I only lingered in the park for a moment – I felt like I was getting wary stares from the two other guys who were there, passing between themselves a cigarette (or maybe a joint? It definitely didn’t smell like just tobacco).
On my way back, I thought about why I myself run. To stay fit? Yes. Well, in the sense that going running once or twice a week makes me feel less guilty about all the late-night stress eating, the irresistible chocolate cravings, and alcohol binges. But I also run to procrastinate doing work, homework, studying, sleeping (who the hell procrastinates sleep??)… And also for stress relief. Because when your legs are burning and your lungs are gasping for air, things like boy problems and “the future” seem less immediately important. And sometimes I wonder what other runners think of me as we cross paths.