Long Walks On Leafy Streets

7/8/2020 Peabody St NW, Washington DC    
Some people fast - on Ramadan, Easter, the countless Hindu festivals, etc., Some people go on pilgrimages. For me long distance running has taken that role, especially during this period of quarantine. When it is pleasant, like during late winter, early spring, late summer, and early fall, it is like a long meditation out on the roads and the trails. The mind is calm and the body is at rhythm and everything in the world seems so beautiful. But when things are not so comfortable or your body is not in good shape or you run out of fuel or water it becomes something completely different. If you read my post on last year's marathon then you know what I am talking about. I ran into something similar this past Sunday.

The summer seems to have started in earnest just a couple of weeks ago. Until then the early morning temperatures were in the upper sixties or low seventies (Fahrenheit).
In the last couple of weeks even as early as seven in the morning the temperatures were in the upper seventies and my body has not yet adjusted to it. I am running more each week compared to previous years. I want to run a better time in the marathon this year. It is of course my ego that is making me do that. But so far it has been healthy for my body and mind, so I guess it is okay. The more you run, the better the body seems to get. Nevertheless, if it turns out that the marines either cancel it or it looks like the way they structure the race is not safe as far as the virus is concerned, I am prepared to let it go and defer my entry to next year's marathon. Just having the opportunity to be out running is gratifying.

This past Sunday I ran sixteen miles. Starting from home ran all the way to the Lincoln memorial via Dupont circle, a distance of eight miles, and came back the same way. It was the day after the fourth of July celebrations. The empty streets were littered with exploded firecrackers and in the mall there were just a few tourists, bikers and runners. It was very humid from the beginning, and in the upper seventies. The outbound trip was okay, albeit a bit uncomfortable. I ran at a steady pace just under ten minutes, trying to stay under 80% effort. I ran out of fluids by the time I reached Dupont circle on the way back, around the ten-mile mark. In summers of past years at this point of time I would have finished my run and relaxed in the expansive shade of the many trees of the circle, stretching my legs on the lush grass while squirrels ran around trying to mooch some snacks from me. After that I would have taken the metro home. But on this day taking metro was impossible (especially because I didn't have a mask with me), and I wanted to run six more miles even though the body was ready to stop.

I couldn't get a drink from CVS even though I walked in with my face covered with a towel. The attendant shooed me away. Luckily I was able to get something from the Subway nearby. It is run by a Muslim (middle eastern?) family and I have stopped there many times to get a post run sandwich. The drink was a life saver but it was still a slog to run the last six miles, much of it was uphill. By now the sun was up in the sky, the temperature was in the low eighties and my body was completely out of any kind of fuel.

Thich Nhat Hanh (and other teachers) talk about the importance of listening to the body and not going to extremes. It was not my intention to test my limits, yet that is what I ended up almost doing. I slowed my pace considerably, to the extent that over the last few miles I was not much faster than walking. Indeed, when I was about a mile from home I decided not to take any chances and walked most of the way. Despite all that it was quite a test of endurance. Nevertheless, this experience was useful in many ways. It made me humble, realizing the limitations of my body. It made me appreciate the fact that I could still be on my feet and make it home on my own power. It made me really appreciate the grass, the trees, and the breeze that embraced me part of the way. Finally, it stripped the mind of all the layers of ego and one was only left with the higher consciousness or will-power to guide it. It brought me closer to nature and the earth from which I came.

Speaking of nature, Prashant is becoming somewhat of an expert in animals. He watches shows about animals on TV and is constantly lecturing us about animals. Recently we had a zoom chat with a friend's family. He pretty much took over the entire chat, talking about the animals of the world. We have been taking him out to various parks and forests in the hopes of seeing animals. He is especially interested in seeing snakes.

We saw black rat snakes in the Arboretum and Rock Creek Park once each but that's it. On Saturday we drove to the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (wildlife preserve) in Columbia, MD. It was a pleasant experience for all. There were not too many people and the forest was quite shady. We stopped by the river many times and saw some fish. Prashant had been missing the beach. As a consolation, he got to play on the sandbanks by the river. We also saw some beautiful dragonflies but otherwise he was disappointed because we didn't see any animals. Overall it is quite a beautiful place to visit with lots of well-marked trails.

On Monday afternoon I took him to Rock Creek Park. He was not happy to leave his current favorite TV show, the Octonauts, a show about ocean animals. I told him we will be back soon. We found a little sandbank by the creek and he happily played with the sand while I sat on a rock nearby listening to the rushing waters.

Directory Previous