Sometime in the last few months, I decided I was done with running races. I’ve done a few half marathons, and one 5K, and I’m all set. It was good, for a while, to have a race set up as training motivation, but at some point, I realized that my motivation is actually internal. Also, I find spending money on races unpleasant. I did set an arbitrary goal of running 1,000 miles this year, and I’m currently at 675, so that’s going well.
For the most part, I run to maintain my sanity and my health. To do that, I don’t have to go very fast. Sometimes, when I’m trotting along, I hear my younger son’s anthem, the one he howls whenever we’re hiking and he is fatigued, or bored, or hungry (basically all the time). “Slow is my pace!” is his plaintive cry. I like it as a general motto.
Yesterday, I was out running with my older son, and I assure you, slow is his pace too, though he whines a lot less. As we plodded up a hill on the way home, I saw that a tree by the road had been cut down. The road guys repaved the road and regraded the shoulder this month, and this tree was canted out over the road and must have been some kind of problem. It had not been an attractive tree. It was a big, muscley pine diverging into two badly proportioned trunks about ten feet up. It was inelegant and fairly glowered over the road. Several times, running past it, I got the feeling that it was about to fall on me. But when I saw it was gone, I felt a little pang of loss. Not because I particularly liked the tree, but because I suspect that so few people had ever really looked at it, and so almost no one would note its absence. It was situated on a blind curve that takes substantial attention, when driving, to avoid oncoming cars, so not many drivers would have the chance to notice it, and it wasn’t really remarkable in any way anyway. But I noticed it, because at my running speed, objects take a very long time to pass. Laboring up the hill by that tree made it take even longer. I had many opportunities to stare at that tree.
Like the progression of plants in the swamp, or the extraordinary work of carrion beetles undertaking a vole carcass, or the gradual growth of the hogs down the road, my pace is slow. Humans intervene sometimes, and a tree is suddenly a stump, or the hogs are gone to the slaughter one day, all without warning. Most of my life, I am moving at this usual human speed of fast, but when running, my pace is slow. Not as slow as the growth of a homely pine tree though. And much as I found it ugly and ominous, I feel a bit of nostalgia over this old survivor, now fallen into oblivion. Such are the thoughts I have on a run, for the miles are long, and my pace is slow.