I was born to be a runner, but something went wrong. My feet flattened. My knees swelled. My immune system weakened. My body was not put together right; like furniture from IKEA put together by someone who is not good at following directions. When I try to run, I feel like a bag of rocks being smacked against the pavement.
My dream used to be that I would build up from walking on the treadmill for an hour a day, to running on the treadmill, to running miles a day outdoors; in a park, maybe, or at the beach, with Chariots of Fire playing in the background. But I seem to be locked inside of this particular box, and no matter how hard I try to move it, it refuses to stay moved.
Whenever I see someone running in a movie, in dress shoes and overcoats, in tank tops and shorts, in leg braces or chased by police, I feel like I am running too. I watch sports, and dance, and movies, not just because it is entertaining to watch, or beautiful or dramatic, but because it is cathartic. Something deep within me is living in those bodies for a moment, kissing the love of my life, dancing with Fred Astaire, and running faster than I could ever imagine.
I feel this when I watch my dogs too. When I take them out to the backyard, I let go of Butterfly’s leash and let her gallop (she needs to gallop in order to poop, so this is a completely practical choice on my part). She lifts up off the ground and soars forward, and I feel her joy.
I can’t let Cricket off leash, because if she sees a person, she will run, and bark, and lose her mind, and I won’t be able to interrupt the crazy. But Cricket loves to chase leaves, even on her leash. She is a huge fan of the wind, because it lifts up the leaves and makes them swirl, and she pulls me along behind her, to catch those leaves.
When the dogs run, their ears fly out, and their legs stretch into the air, and they don’t run because I’m forcing them to get their exercise; they run for joy, automatically and without thinking about calories burned.
In elementary school, we used to run a mile’s worth of laps around the gym to Eye of the Tiger from the movie Rocky. A dogged determination would come over me whenever I heard that song, to keep pushing myself forward until that mile was done.
But I want more than that. I want to run with my dogs until my ears fly like theirs do, and I am in no pain, and all I care about is catching that damned leaf up ahead.
(All pictures in this post taken by Naomi Mankowitz – AKA Grandma – and her magical DSLR camera)