A sprint. A dog. And spring.

Written on Feb 10th, 2019 by , Category Training

By Marlene Farrell

I don’t think I’m always open to memos from the universe. But sometimes things are juxtaposed in time and place so I can’t help but pay attention.

I was driving to pick my kids up from school the other day. The temperatures had yet to break out of the twenties, the sky ashen, heavy. It would be easy to be weighed down by the clouds from above.

Then I passed a runner, going the other way along the sidewalk. I had to ease my foot off the gas.

I often pass runners along my route — this is Leavenworth I’m talking about. I too am one of those crazy people running in winter, risking black ice, and mostly unrecognizable with every inch of skin encased except a little window around my eyes. Most of us shuffle, staying upright, saving speed for spring.

There was something about this runner that had me rubbernecking. A twenty-something, he was sprinting, not jogging or trotting, attached by a thin line of webbing to a husky whose legs looked too long for its still young body.

The dog bounded like it’d just been released from a cage, tongue lolling, eyes shining; it was a furry arrow darting down the sidewalk. The dog’s human ran with equal delight. Far from being dragged along by the dog’s enthusiasm, I watched as he sped alongside his pet and then leapt atop a small stone wall, to sprint along its narrow ledge before hopping down to run again on the sidewalk.

After a moment, they were out of sight. But the image stayed with me.

Playfulness is both a mechanism for and a symptom of passion. And, in the middle of winter, when clear trails seem eons away, I needed that reminder.

I smiled and noticed the song on the radio, filled with fast electric guitar, and my sense of anticipation swelled. It was a song that had kept me company on runs through my Walkman in college. The beginning lyrics, “I want to run … ” were sung with the longing that is quintessential Bono.

And it had matched my own longing while training alone for my first, second and third marathon, wandering neighborhood streets and following a dirt path next to a mirrored lake in New Jersey. Always early morning before my first class, while the rest of the campus slept.

The lyrics continue with the more confounding words, “I want to hide …” Why hide? Was it for the sake of a rhyme (“I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.”)? Running, at least for me, is the opposite of hiding. It’s daring to be out there, exposed, not afraid of possible pain for the sake of exhilaration.

I forgave Bono as he went on to sing, “I want to feel sunlight on my face …” Yes, those two thoughts are tightly linked. To bask in the warmth of sunshine on a run in the crisp spring air is one version of heaven.

Fun does not evade me in the winter, it’s just transformed. I play on my cross country skis. When I feel lively, I hop up the hills and do a mix of tucking like a human bomb (though I’m pretty wimpy compared to the kids I coach) and stepping to ride the thrilling curves, bending my body this way and that to submit to accelerating forces.

However, I went home that day remembering the dog owner and “Where the Streets Have No Names.” I found myself googling spring races and started dreaming of trails, both familiar and mysterious.

When you see me at a start line, probably Horse Lake in April, I’ll be giddy. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have a soundtrack running through my head and images of me hopping up and down walls while I run as wild and free as a creature made for it.

Marlene Farrell is a writer, long-distance runner and coach. She lives in Leavenworth.

Leave Your Comment