This is Part II of my intermittent series on running. Part III may be in several weeks, or not for several months, we shall see.
I am currently on vacation in Colorado and Nebraska. Please check back in early August. Thank you.
Five years into becoming a regular runner, running is no longer a struggle for my body or my mind – but it’s not a joy either, it’s just something I do. I admit that I do just enough to get by with my running, never seeking to improve. The three of us; my mind, my body, and the road coexist in the same way that compatible roommates coexist. There’s no love, but no animosity either. We’re just near each other at times, and respectful to one another when we’re engaged. When we’re away from each other, we don’t think too much about it. It’s a clinical collaboration with little expression nor celebration. By anyone’s definition, it’s just another marriage…
Her Vocation, My Vacation
My daughter, an aspiring archeologist, chose to spend time this year studying in Athens, Greece. Makes sense – they have a lot of old things there which require study. Shortly after her arrival in Athens, I decided I would travel there toward the end of her academic year, to exploit her knowledge and spend time allowing her to guide me through all which she had been studying. Of that, she did an excellent job and I remain grateful for such a comprehensive tour.
I had recently completed the book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. In this book, the author writes briefly about his experience running in Athens. Away from my gym and my bike, and with my inherent requirement for daily action, I decided ahead of time that each morning during my visit, I would run the streets of Athens – mixing in some push-ups and pull-ups when I could. This would be enough, I thought, to satisfy my craving for physicality.
Base Of Operations
I had rented an apartment in Athens to use as a base of operations for my visit with my daughter. The apartment was located in the district of Pangrati, a charming community known for its markets, tavernas, and central location to all the history which transpired a few thousand years back. Pangrati is also home to the Panathinaiko stadium. In fact, the apartment I rented was located directly behind this historic stadium. The running track at Panathinaiko stadium, my daughter explained to me, is open to the public from 6:00am – 10:00pm. My daily fitness requirement now had a timely and proximate outlet, and I would never have to set foot on the treacherous streets of Athens.
I took my first run at Panathinaiko stadium on my second morning in Athens. Like all my runs, I pushed only as hard as I needed to – enough to feel like I was working, but there was no runner’s high. Prior to the run I did some push-ups and pull-ups on a fitness course set up at the top of the stadium. This, I decided, would be my protocol while visiting my daughter.
Something unusual happened though, during my third morning run in Athens; I didn’t want the run it to be over the way I usually do as my end distance approached. Partially inspired by the stadium I suppose, and partially due to my recent consistency with running, I began to feel strong on mile number three. I began running faster, stronger, and I finally began to feel that floating sensation described in Part I of this series, 30 years after seeing the movie, The Jericho Mile. I chose to go an extra mile, then two.
After my run I did another half-dozen sets of pull-ups and push-ups. Then, leaving the stadium feeling completely energized, I sprinted along the straightaway connecting the stadium with my apartment. The runner’s high had finally arrived in my psyche. I arrived back at the apartment to enjoy coffee on the patio and a breakfast of fresh green beans and turkey slices drizzled with olive oil and a dash of pepper. I felt like another god in the pantheon; Royeclese, god of running.
Panathinaiko stadium was the last place on Earth I expected to enjoy a morning run. In truth, I had never expected to enjoy a morning run anywhere. My morning run – any run, has always been something I just tolerated. However, in this famous stadium – hallowed ground where athletic history has been made and celebrated, in the shadow of the Acropolis and adjacent to the Agora, I would feel the joy of running for the very first time.
The following morning I woke, and eagerly headed to the stadium to duplicate my first runner’s high. Nope. Not happening. I didn’t struggle to run, but my three miles was completed with no joy, and no self-imposed extra credit at the end. It was run and done, as usual. Running and I once again were simply coexisting. ‘Sniff.
The next day my daughter and I were off to the island of Mykonos. What kind of running might I find there…? Check back in a few weeks and see if there is more to this story there… Be well. rc
I am currently on vacation in Colorado and Nebraska. Please check back in early August to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Colin Hay, enjoy…