Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In motion

It's ten minutes to noon, and the office is humming. Voices rise and fall beyond my cubicle as project managers race from one task to the next, pausing long enough to dump another request on our desks. Outside, beyond the hermetically sealed windows, the sun beams down from a naked sky. I look down at my feet in their sandals.

"I'm going for a run," I announce.

A quick stop at the gym, then out the front door. I'm in full workout regalia, except I've forgotten my socks. My feet stick to the orthotics I wear, but I don't mind. It is glorious, warm, the air thick with midday humidity. I head towards the river.

There's a long path along the edge, and I run steadily along its perimeter, passing clusters of office workers, their ties flipped over their shoulders, collar buttons open, blazers hanging off their arms. I am one of them, but not now. It's been days since I've crammed a run into my schedule, and my joints are quick to remind me that I'm not really supposed to go without stretching anymore. I shrug them off, ignore the cramp tearing a hole in my stomach, and slog on down the trail.

By the halfway point, I think I could run home to Seattle. With the light foot traffic, I can afford to look around, and I watch a lazy canoe plash over the currrent. Far below me, a cat's tongue of sand stretches from one horizon to the next. I debate sticking to the path I know, then veer right and pick my way down the ravine, dappled light shimmering between cottonwoods and maples. I burst out onto the sand and feel the tightness in my muscles release.

Down here, the air is sharp and cool. No one else is on the shore, and so I run in the company of breakers lapping hardpacked sand. It's rockier than I expected, and I switch into a high, prancing jog, feet flicking over uneven stones. For 15 minutes, I concentrate on the ground immediately before me. One slip, and I'll be limping a few miles back to the office. I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into; I think about turning back, or clambering up the wooded hill to the security of paved road. But there isn't much farther to go, and my steps are growing quicker.

The last 100 yards are loose sand, and before long I have half a pound in each shoe, chasing the skin where foot meets fabric. I'm red-faced, dripping sweat, and out of breath, but I maintain a brisk trot as I work back up the gentle hill towards the office. By the time I'm out of the shower, I feel invigorated, completely alive. I flick the towel over my shoulder, smooth the wrinkles from my skirt, run a finger comb through my hair, and open the door. I'm ready now.

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