When I run I have blood-tingling surges of euphoria. When I run I think only about my run, this run, my pace, my distance. When I run my heart beats fast, too fast. When I run I’m oblivious to my surroundings. I run at the bay for the peaceful ambiance, the water’s gentle undulation, but rarely notice bay, sky, trees. When I run I want to pass the runner in front of me and the one in front of her. I want to be first in my age division. I want to beat my own record. When I run I struggle to talk. My breathing is labored, my heart pounds. I mention it to my doctor. “It’s probably nothing, but….” When I run on the treadmill I watch the monitors. Numbers flash on screens, lines zig up, zag down. I’m calm, expecting a clean slate. The test shows an abnormality, a possible blockage. “We’ll do it again in three weeks,” he says. “Don’t worry,” he says. I worry. I envision life with a bad heart. Life as an invalid. When I run the second stress test I’m running for my life. Is this the beginning of the end? I steel myself for bad news but get the all clear. “It’s probably your age,” he says. When I run I wonder if it’s worth it.
When I walk I move swiftly. I don’t stroll, saunter, mosey, meander. When I walk I’m conscious of every part of my body: feet, knees, hips, hands, shoulders, back, lungs, neck. When I walk I reflect, ruminate, reason. I replay conversations, rewrite my past. I compose sentences and paragraphs. When I walk I’m attuned to life. Clouds drift, flowers bud and bloom, parrots squawk, crows loom, sirens wail. Hip hop blasts from cars, dogs chase squirrels, children shout with glee and gloom. When I walk my heart still races, a reminder of mortality that I accept with resignation. When I walk I miss running. When I walk I don’t miss running. When I walk I’m strong and fit, in control, powerful. It’s not euphoria, but it’ll do.
Alice Lowe reads and writes about life and literature, food and family. Recent essays have appeared in Ascent, Bloom, Concho River Review, Hobart, Superstition Review, and Waccamaw Review. Her work has been cited in the Best American Essays and nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Alice is the author of numerous essays and reviews on Virginia Woolf’s life and work, including two monographs published by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. Alice lives in San Diego, California; read her work at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.