Sunglasses on and ponytail swinging, the muted sound of each footfall registered briefly in my mind. The sound was a rhythmic, light pitter-patter, not heavy and plodding. I liked to hear the gravel crunching under my feet, a testament to progress. But soon my attention turned to my breathing. I was in the midst of a steep hill and still running. Running and breathing at the same time, mind you. Not the gasping for air kind of breathing but the kind that responds as it should to increased demand. That, my friend, seldom happens.
Topping the hill, I started down the incline. My legs, though not accustomed to such turn over, responded. I felt like a runner again, strong and swift. By the time I arrived back at the house, the big hand on the kitchen clock confirmed I had run well. It felt so good. I hoped it wasn't a fluke.
Back at the ranch-or actually, the YMCA-the line at the bottom of the pool has been a good companion. A while back, the only comforting thing about that line was the end of it, signaling that the wall was within reach. I purposely kept a lap counter on the pool's edge, a good excuse to occasionally stop and move the beads down the abacus-like counter. To swim a full mile was a test of patience and nothing about it felt natural. But now, other than the initial chill of the water, there is nothing I don't like about my swim. No longer do I pant from exhaustion or sputter from not having sufficient air for a flip turn. Instead, I feel free in the water; gliding from end to end with relative ease. It's a great time to think and pray, the water forming a quiet and insulating barrier to the outside world.
Once again, I am beginning to look forward to my daily exercise, whatever form it takes. On most of my recent runs I have felt to be more than a jogger. I think of some upcoming races. Maybe, just maybe. . . I am tired of not running strong, sometimes using my age as an excuse for mediocrity. Though I may never be as fast as I once was, I know I can be faster than I now am.
I know the road will not be easy and smooth. Potholes of fear may threaten my progress. Life may force some detours. But for now, I have the address typed into the GPS and am heading for the start of a beautiful adventure into the world of fitness gains and challenges.