It was dark when I headed for the track this morning. I had been awake off and on since 3:30 anyway, so I figured I would just get up. (Note: going to bed at 9 pm does NOT add up to more sleep, just waking up that much earlier!) And no, I didn't head there at 4 am, but I was there by shortly after 6.
This track and I have a long history, going back 18 years ago, in my second season of running, in my attempt to run with the "big dogs" (per Suzanne) (my definition of big dogs: anyone who runs way faster than me). It was on this track way back then where--so I could run with the big dogs--I spent countless hours, running countless laps, in the never ending attempt at trying to reach that elusive 8 minute pace, eventually reaching even sub 8, or so I thought. That is until my bubble was burst and I was informed that this track is a 1/5 mile track, that's 5 laps to the mile, not the 4 I had been running. So back to the drawing board.
And then this track is where my best running buddy at the time and I pounded out quarter mile repeats--after having guesstimated where the 1/4 mile mark was--and smugly reported our ever lowering times to local big dog runner, Greg Meyer, Boston Marathon winner, at a running clinic he put on just for our office team. "Anyone can do quarter mile repeats," he scoffed, deflating our egos. "You need to be doing mile repeats, or at least 800s." So we did. But we took our 800s to the "big dog" track, the quarter miler, until forced off by football season. Even then, we forgot about our trusty friend, and ran around the block instead.
Today, trudging around the track, as the dark still enveloped me, my feet knew what to do. They knew all the bumps, wet spots from the sprinklers, turns, and straight-aways. We go back a long way. They kept moving, through 3+ miles, somewhere around 30 minutes, keeping track of how close to me the young woman who showed up at the same time as I was getting, and who faded after a mile. They kept going as the sun started showing its face in the eastern sky, now turning all pink. This is the same track across the street from the hospital where a year ago I lay broken; where 5 years ago my dad recovered from a stroke, and where numerous times in the past 5 years he had gone for treatment of one ailment or another; where my mom had died 6 years ago; and where many, many years ago I was born. I might not be as fast any more, and my purpose may be different, but old friends understand and love you anyway. Me and the track? A constant.