There are those moments in life when we are so intimidated. I reflected on this, as we human beings have our plans as life hands us our uncertainties. Actually, we are handed uncertainties every day. We just don’t reckon with all of it. Some people see the train coming and others don’t. My reaction is, I use math. Math Statistics, I’m a numbers person. It’s partly how my brain operates, that along with thinking of anatomy. It comforts me little and sometimes a little more than little. There have been days I think I can’t run a step. What I do, is I take my own advice and say, ‘Just get dressed. As if you were a runner. Walk outside. Smell the air. Be Grateful and move with no ideas. One step at a time. If you can run one hundred meters, then try two hundred meters. Not fast, yet methodical. Feel the air, the rain, the snow on your face, move your feet. Focus on each step, hear your breathing.’ Before you know it, a half mile has passed. Time has ebbed and flowed through all living souls at those very moments you’ve moved your body.
Then there are those of us who are too embarrassed to go for a walk, or a run. It’s all vanity. I make sure I’m poor-looking because I know nothing matters without movement. I don’t need new digs. I wear what I have left to my name, and what I can afford. And if I look poor, I will attract no one. I’ll just be the person moving my body out and about, for whatever time is chosen for me for that day.
The other day as I ran, finding a new route which was stupendous in view. I admittedly didn’t want to run that day. Then when I began to run, I said to myself, “I don’t know if I can run another uphill.” I thought to myself, ‘Why?’ No real answer did I receive from within. My mind reflected back to a handful of years ago, as I’d run the back roads from my home in Bergen County, New Jersey up through Northern Passaic County, Sussex County, and other areas up north. Such as turning off of Greenwood Lake Turnpike and onto Sloatsburg Road; then to Sterling Mine Road into New York State taking Eagle Valley Road after that; then onto Old 17/Orange Turnpike; then soon onto Seven Lakes Drive and Johnsontown Road. Sometimes running up to as far as the Bear Mountain Inn, or Perkins Point. Usually though, my turn around was Tiorati Lake or Sebago. I’d call home and let my husband know I was safe and on my way back home.
There were days I’d planned an eighty mile run, or as adventurous as a hundred and forty mile run that would take me far into the next day. Eighty milers were easier on the family. Yet, I knew if I ran sixty miles or less, practically, no one would know that I’d even left the house late on a Friday night. Only to arrive back home Saturday morning to take our daughters to their respective ballet classes. As well, then make lunches for meeting another mom in the park or zoo for a long weekend playdate, then taking our sleeping daughters foodshopping. At times one sleeping strapped to the front of me and the other in our double stroller I’d pack with food, as I shopped at a local food store.
The days that I’d planned seventy, or eighty mile runs, I couldn’t plan the weather. So, I prayed that I was strong enough to weather any storms presiding. I remember this one day. It was a clear blue sky. I wanted eighty-two miles in the bank for that particular day. I’d left at around half past twelve in the morning and hoped I’d be home by two or three in the afternoon. I knew the weather would be conducive to a great running environment. It would be warm. I might need gloves in the beginning, and a cap to wear to hold my LED headlamp through the night and early morning hours of running. As well my ‘Las Vegas’ Large Men’s Blinking Reflective Vest. From afar, like three hundred meters away, I would look like a tow truck.
This one day as I was on my way back, wearing my camelback, packed with the taste of the water leaving much to be desired. So, at nearly the bottom of Skyline Drive, I stopped at Goldberg Bagels. I paused my watch, waddled in, and ordered a salt bagel or two and a black coffee, purchasing two bottles of water as well. Then I attended my bathroom duties. Clean bathrooms always make me happy. The little things we take for granted. Soap, water, paper towels. Amazing things, I feel as my body aches. Yet my mind buzzes on the fullness of colors streamed to me live on this particular day. And yes doing this much exercise, you do get high.
After stuffing a salted bagel down my throat outside the store. I sipped four ounces of my coffee and the rest I had to trash. I refilled my fast-draw water bottle. So, I’d carry two full bottles of water, one in each hand up the side of Skyline Drive. I was a bit beat up from not just the run, yet from the sun as well.
I began my ascent up the long, Saturday trafficked busy roadway of Skyline Drive in Ringwood, New Jersey. I ran with a paper bag holding the other salted bagel in my left pinky and ring finger with my fast draw bottle held with the other three fingers of that same hand. And my right hand holding one of the water bottles I’d just purchased. On my back, was my now nearly twelve pound camelback, stuffed with dried mashed potatoes, utensils, money, left over extra clothing, cell phone, jelly beans, electrolyte capsules and powdered packages, maps, compass, pocket knife, another knife, spray for the bad guys, and well forty ounces of ilky-tasting water. I always know how much it weighs, per my old buddy Dr. Manning and I had weighed this baby a few times before a some of my runs.
This one gorgeous late spring day, I began the trek up. I felt so intimidated. My mind, never mind my body was so worn. I ran up a good portion of Skyline Drive, then I realized I needed shade. My eyes seemed to not be focused enough. I was indeed stumbling, twisting my ankle as I did. I knew whether it was sprained or not, I still had to make it up to the top of Skyline Drive or I would be mentally crushed. Hey, I’ve got my standards to chalk up something as a good run. As I was about ascend the final half mile or so there was a shaded area, where I could safely sit on a metal guard rail, hoping it wouldn’t burn my hamstrings. As I arrived at the guardrail. A client, who was a nurse and a triathlete saw me. She drove up to me in her little sports car and yelled, “Jody!” She offered a ride. I refused, “I’m doing great. Thanks.” I replied as I had already been to this point of no return and no more energy, feeling completely broken on every level. We chatted for twenty seconds, waving to me as she drove off in her little car with the convertible top down.
I called my husband, “Hey. Can you meet me at the top of Skyline Drive with the girls? I’m about a mile away from the top.” He was cool with packing up our two daughters for a little ride to see mommy and pick her up from the top of the ridge of some mountainous terrain. As I got off the phone and reloaded my camelback, bottles, and bagel bag, I looked up. That’s all there was, was up. A blue sky and green leaves lining the path to my side, now going back east homeward. All at once I felt so small. It’s not that I hadn’t ever felt small. It was this time as only a few, I was greatly intimidated. I remarked, “Oh God. What the Hell is a matter with me?” I paused. I looked up again and began to ascend the mountainous roadway. “Okay get me to the top, Buddy. You and me, we’re doing it.” Off and up I ran. Making it to the top and finding a big rock in the hiking parking lot which was nearly filled with cars that afternoon. I let my husband know where I would be sitting, and where he could safely pull over to pick me up.
To this day, I see that ascension that I didn’t know if I could make it to the top. I’ve been there many
times in life. Sometimes in the desert looking at a never-ending mountainous climb, much, much further. Ascending twelve to sixteen miles upward with no shade. With temperatures well into the one hundred and twenties. This view of looking up, feeling crushed by the enormity of the task at hand happens in life’s curve ball throws. We think it is aimed at us. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is for the guy behind us. Sometimes we are the witness to it. However, when it is aimed at us, it is not that it is aimed at us. Rather, it is what we do with the task of not knowing the unknown result. Especially, if we can’t duck it. Because we are so small and in our minds, the task appears as of a bewildering enormity. Yet, if we put on our outside gear, taking the first step, the first breath, deep. Feel it all. All the scariness which includes life’s uncertainties, we may not survive exactly the way we want to. One thing I can assure us, is we will learn. What we do with that learning, many times is up to us, individually.---Jody-Lynn Reicher