Both of these are attempts at descriptive pieces.
Air fills my lungs. Crisp air that has not yet been coloured by smoke and fumes. Air that was washed clean by last night’s rain. I take in a deep breath and it feels sharp and cold as it enters my system. The lethargy of sleep disappears in an instant. And I feel the familiar anticipation. My muscles tighten in eagerness. I change and kneel down, quickly pull my white socks on and then slip on my blue running shoes, first the left and then the right shoe. I stretch, touching the tips of my toes with my fingers, twisting so I don’t strain a muscle. Waiting until each muscle tightens before I release it. This is almost the most important part of my morning ritual, it sets tone for the next 45 minutes.
I know what will come next, my body tenses in anticipation. Stepping outside, the cool breeze hits my face. It is the perfect morning. Rain does that, it creates a fresh page and a clear street. I run down the 32 steps and I enter the street. It is clear, as all the streets are at this time, with the exception of the stray leaves that the rain brought down. I step foot onto the wet road. The road feels firm, solid under my feet.
I love running after the rains. I love the smell of rain on wet earth. The only smell that is better is the one that precedes rainfall. When the earth knows it shall receive rain soon and it awaits it. Those are the mornings that are truly beautiful. The ones that make me want to run forever. This morning however is just as wonderful.
A slow jog begins. My body is warning up after idle hours in bed cuddled up and resting. The first ten minutes are a slow run, stretching every part of my body. I step on the occasional leaf or twig. Where in any other morning I would hear its crisp crunch under my shoes, this morning it’s wet and disappears under my feet with a tiny squish, the twig cracking with a soft, wet noise. I pick up the pace. The run turns into a sprint that I know will exhaust me. Just a few minutes into it and I can already feel the sweat in my hair; more movement will cause it to flow down my brow. It drenches my t-shirt. After a while I do not notice, just like the heat in my muscles, it becomes a part of the experience.
I absorb the sounds and the smells of the morning. Running has some distinct smells. No matter where you’re running, the smell of sweat intermingled with the early morning. There is the smell of trees, tangy and raw almost overcrowding your senses. It’s the time of the day when the city is still enough to let you believe it is not dirty and overcrowded. I lose myself in the sounds of the morning, the early birds, the young boys who sort the morning paper and the first people rising. I meet some wonderful people during my morning run. Everyone has a smile; there are greetings that city-dwellers do not care to exchange with strangers once the sun is really out. There is a camaraderie that exists between us, we don’t know names or backgrounds but we know enough to smile.
My favourite runs are on the beach. The sun seems to be rising from the sea after having been swallowed the previous evening. I run barefoot on the beach. With sand between my toes and each step leaving a print in the sand. I know it’s transitional. I know in a few hours they will be indistinguishable from the thousands of prints around them but for this brief time, I’ve left my mark. The waves break on the shoreline. It’s sound soft and yet almost deafening in the still of the morning. There is a salty twang on my lips after a beach run. And I can smell the salt in my hair all through the day. I know that in a few hours the beach will no longer be this silent haven of piece and I value the time I have. I appreciate that running on the beach is harder and requires more effort. The sand forces you to push your body more than you normally would. It also rewards you with waves that kiss your feet when you go close enough.
With every run there is the wide open space ahead, the expanse ahead and the trail of steps I know I’ve left behind. Others have come here before and more will come after, but for now, this is my trail.