I walked into Starbucks and ran into my friend lindsey. Last time I saw her was at Starbucks. We saw each other and smiled that wide goofy smile of irony, connecting at a coffee shop packed full of people minding their own exclusive digital business. I sat down with her and we chatted across our silver screens like a game of Battleships.
“If you could do anything, what would it be?” She asked me.
Our answers were surprisingly similar; both desiring to work for ourselves. Owning a business that cultivated communities. I wanted to start a bakery/cafe with venue space, freshly baked bread, and a bicycle community hub space attached that could also be used for meetings and activist movements for encouraging bicycle transportation needs and awareness. Her’s was a cafe space with a conference-like room where businesses or organizations could meet. Simple ideas make all the difference.
We chattered away like social butterflies sharing a moment of warm sunlight. We talked about sensory deprivation tanks, how much our own minds dominate the show, and how we both enjoy that aspect of running where the “I” becomes a passive observer of the mind’s thoughts; the thoughts pass by just like the body passes by the scenery on a run.
I said my goodbyes and coincidentally went to join her boss for a 12 mile loop run in the soft rain. There were 4 of us all together, and it was the first time in many moons where I found myself running along side what I guess you could call a gang of runners.
We were all excited to be there, and to share our joy of running. I felt a little giddy, a bit of a chatter box. “Ya’ll ever seen that movie about the poor boy who ran a foot race to win a pair of shoes for his sister?” I started off the conversation of many to come.
We spent the first couple miles along the scenic route, adjusting to each other’s pace and rhythm. It’s a beautiful miraculous thing: syncing up your pace and stride with three other running bodies. You become this one organism, more powerful than the parts that make it up. We became kings of the road. Cars were at our mercy. Passerbys were at our glory.
The four us sometimes chatted all together, then maybe two of us would break off and have our own conversation. We rotated and blended our talk organically. No one was really paying attention to how fast we were going, even as the gps watches ringed each mile split.
I was caught off guard by a heckling women (“run faster!”) working at the Botanical Gardens we passed by, and nearly tripped over my own foot. She called out something incoherent. “What did she say?” I turned and asked Billy as we turned the bend and started climbing up the ascent. He shook his head and burst into a rhythmic laughter. He kept laughing, couldn’t stop, messing up his form. I’d never seen someone laugh uncontrollably while running like that. I never found out was so funny. I didn’t need to. On that run, we were purely human, nothing more was required.
“You know runners can be a curious bunch,” I said to whoever was closest to me. I reminisced about my race from last week, and how everyone stood around afterwards in this awkward stance of wanting to relate but failing miserably at doing so. “It was like they had this eagerness to relate through running, almost frantic about it. Edgy. They were all talking heads hurling all this running jargon at me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love running too, but… I’d rather just…—“
“—experience it.” Billy finished my sentence.
“Yeah. Exactly. Just share in the experience of it. That’s all you need.”
We ran on.
Mike the ironman guided us onto an old sugarcane road from the milling days. It was quiet, narrow, and deserted. Old date palms and guava trees arched over the road enclosing it like a tunnel. Tyler shared his past story being runner in college and dropping out of school in Oregon. “I wasn’t running much. I was a bit depressed. I didn’t really want to be in school. I was lonely. Wasn’t my scene. It was just what was expected of me at the time. You don’t really know these things then. You just sort of sense that somethings not right. That’s what the depression was telling me I guess. I started going to the community college instead. Joined the club team. It was something. Sometimes I wish I had followed through with something. I could have a working wage by now you know? I’m 27. I’m almost past the accursed age of 27.”
Mike chimed in, “ yeah but you know all that stuff was meaningful, from your past. You’re where you are now because of it. You can’t regret any of that. It’s meant to be.”
The rain subtly increased its precipitation. Our four shirtless bodies gleamed in the rain. Our hair collected the rain and our heels kicked rain back up at the clouds. “Yea you’re right. I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out.”
We ran on.
The small road was ending. We turned right and began another ascent. I automatically changed my breathing and shortened my stride in response. We strides across an over pass. We passed through an orchard farm of Ti plants that stretched for acres across both sides of the road. Billy had stopped for a pee and was steadily catching back up.
“Mike, remember that time you were running up here alone and you came across that tourist?” Billy remarked as he rejoined us.
“Oh yea, gotta love those tourists. It was a perfect situation. Beautiful asian women in her flashy mustang rental car. Totally lost. And here I am all on my lonesome way back on this road where I never see anyone. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario” We all breathed out a laugh as we climbed the hill, imagining Mike’s surprise and excitement at the time.
We ran on.
“Hey what’s the workout called when the guy from the back has to sprint up to the front of the line?”
“Oh I dunno, indian something?”
“I really don’t think that’s it.”
“yea definitely not the politically correct name.”
“oh I think I know what you’re talking about, we do that while cycling sometimes.”
“yeah but with running. Is it the same?”
We ran on.
We crossed the highway again, returning to the scenic route. This time Mike drops off to pee. Our conversations have entered a life of their own. No one’s thinking about what to say, it’s just said. There’s a freedom involved with that and running. It’s like we all stepped down from this tower in our minds that is constantly looking out and analyzing our own behavior. We stepped down in to the center of our being. Unconcerned. Liberated. Free to just run and breathe and relate.
We came up around a bend. A lady was standing at a view point admiring the grandness of Onomea bay. She turned around as the four us went whizzing by and quite impulsively expressed her pleasure over her new view. “oh oh oh oh!” were but all the words she could utter through the ecstasy.
“I think we just made her day.”
We ran on. We ran in a wide row, covering the whole road. We ran single file hugging the curves. We ran criss-crossed weaving between each other like water snakes crossing a river. We joked with light hearts. We reflected with deep thoughts. We shared wisdoms of science and nutrition and training and awareness. We sprinted short gullies, cooperating in competition. We slowed and relaxed, allowing for compassion. We covered it all, in those 12 miles.
And none of it was expected or planned. Just born from moment upon moment. One stride after another. Nothing more.
We run on.