Until this week, all my city runs have begun and ended on the boardwalk in Victoria Park with only small curious ventures beyond.

On Tuesday of this week, for the first time, I stepped out the door of the studio for a run.  Instead of driving to the park, the simplicity of just walking out the door, pulling it shut behind me, and being good to go was immensely satisfying.

It was just about 10:oo am.  I had already shouted a 6:00am Boot Camp in Victoria Park and worked two private training clients in the studio.  I hadn’t yet had a full breakfast, but felt sufficiently fueled for a short slow run.

I headed toward downtown, running along side and back streets I rarely have reason of, wishing to explore a bit.  I was immediately struck by the exhaust fumes of the vehicles, the sounds of idling engines, the startle of auto horns.  This was in stark contrast to my usual running routes.

There is lovely architecture in the older homes of Charlottetown and I was a bit surprised by the number of Inns and Bed & Breakfasts which line the streets, beautifully trimmed and manicured homesteads whispering my passing into their history.  I would love to tour the insides of these lovelies; I wondered briefly if I would be permitted to pad barefoot along hardwood hallways and across heirloom carpets to a sitting room of overstuffed chairs aching to snuggle me.

I made my way through Victoria Park, enjoying the company of other boardwalkers and boardrunners along the waterfront.  The day was hot, the midmorning sun already throwing off heat, and the air was heavy, as it has been of late.  There was a slumberous scent in the air, floral and important, where pleasant sidled cloying. I thought how pleasant the boardwalk would be, how very much more inviting, if it were occasionally punctuated with bowers and arbors  arching over head, small patches of leafy shade from which to ponder bobbing sailboats.

The shady streets of photo ready neighbourhoods were pleasant after the baldness of the boardwalk. I noticed the coolness under my feet and the gauzy patterns of the leafing canopy spilling off the sidewalks into the streets.  I dodged crumbly remains of roadwork and soldierly garbage bins, running amidst the full bodied ripe aging smells of discard and decay.

I was sweat laden and content when I returned to the studio, pleased to have run a dog day city adventure barefooted.  Even on concrete and asphalt I felt more fully connected to my experience, sure footed, aware of the strength and stability in my ankles and their responsiveness to my needs as a runner.  The city run had flora and fauna, earthskywater, a dizzying variety of underfoot textures and temperatures, new smells to capture my imagination, people and cars and dogs and people and people.  A richness different from the solitude and splendor of my rural road runs.

Today, Thursday, the rain came down.  Steady and for hours.  Sometimes as a soft insistent sprinkle looking for surfaces on which to make interesting spatterings.  Other times it was in great arrogant straight down pourings.  Puddles formed and grew in size, imperious bodies of water at least in attitude.  Water gathered along the edges of the roads, pooling along curbs into ever expanding enthusiastic gushings reaching into the lane of traffic.

I had spent an hour in the rain at 6:00am with an amazing group of highly motivated fitness freaks.  Soaked through and happy for it.  I secretly wished for the rain to continue so I could, after a lunch time class, run.

I got what I wished for.  I got so much more than what I wished for.

Out the studio door into the rain!  It was, from the very first moment, gloriously fun and freeing.  The wet sidewalks, the splash of passing cars, the rush of pedestrians huddled under umbrellas or hunched into collars, the freshness of the cool rain on my face and the cool wet sidewalk beneath my feet.  I was giddy with delight.

I ran along the commercial interests of University Avenue, shifting across Belvedere to Queen where I was challenged by a psychosis of city sidewalks, hard pressed as they were to decide on which side of the road to be.  The at first frustrating crisscrossing of Queen Street and North River Road to follow the sidewalk passed into frivolity; it became a game I played with some degree of fervour.  I raced through puddles, reflecting on how I’d be hedging them were I in runners.  The splashes I created were joyous and I have to admit to occasionally throwing my arms in the air, lifting my face skyward, and spinning crazy careening dancing in some fit of sublime bliss.  ‘Cause I did.

At some point early on I let go of my quick-to-judge-as-mindless (though they are, my mindset having returned as I write this) drivers who could neither slow nor skirt the pedestrian-soaking (or runner-soaking, as the case may be) deluge on the road.  Their mindlessness is, in fact, their mindlessness.  I came to enjoy the extra soaking they afforded me – I am blessed with good fortune.

Two encounters made today’s run especially heartful.

As I stood at the corner of Euston and Queen waiting for a crossing light, resplendently wet and bedraggled, my bare feet shuffling side to side in active waiting, I became aware of an insistent “Excuse me M’am” coming from over my left shoulder.  A young woman, wearing dry clothes and seated in a sparkling clean rental vehicle was leaning across the passenger seat in a parking lot.  “Excuse me M’am” she said through the open window, ” Would you like a ride somewhere?”   Loving compassion. As big as lifeRight there in a black sedan.

Thank you for this kindness whoever you are young woman.  I’ll be wearing your smile for a long, long while yet.

This encounter put even more buoyancy into my stride, if that was possible.  I fairly jigged and reeled, cavorting and capering, loose limbed and foolishly grinned to the end of my route.  Along the last block of my run I was on an approach pattern with two women.  They were ‘of my generation’ I might say and were each tucked under an umbrella.  Clearly they were observing my ‘condition’ as we neared each other.  Upon passing one another, one of the women called out “I’d love to be doing that!”

I’d love to be doing that.

I used to think those words too.

You are the sky.  Everything else . . . is just the weather.  ~Pema Chodron

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