depending on my mood, i’ll often decide to run a certain route and then change my mind at the last minute before i lace up. for thursday’s run, i swapped one of my tried and true looped routes for a fairly new destination run to the brooklyn bridge. the only thing that i had to change was what i had to bring with me. after mashing a five dollar bill and a metrocard into my armband, i wrapped my headphones into my ears and got out just before sunset.
i’ve been having a hard time lately with my left knee. it plays tricks on me because although i’ve felt good at the beginning of my last few runs, by the end of them, i’ll be wobbling all over the place like a newborn horse. i’m not 100% on this, but it might have been those few crooked footfalls i made on the sidewalk while running down a particularly pretty street near my apartment. i’m guilty of playing “the ground is lava” with the cracks between those old bluestones. don’t tell anyone.
heading west, i started out at a good pace. my legs felt light and fast, the temperature was falling, and there were very few people on the sidewalk to dodge since it was dinnertime in the hood. i don’t usually use running as a way to clear my head, but after a half mile in, i decided to do just that. for the most part, i use the time to turn things over and over in my mind to the rhythm of my breathing. because of this, i come back from a run with some solid answers and generally feel a sense of accomplishment. for this particular run, i needed to use the time to shake off some feelings that had glommed on to me since the beginning of the day. instead of turning them over in my head, i found myself turning up and across the narrow side streets of brooklyn heights. seeking out entrance to the promenade, i used the last few rays of the setting sun’s orange haze to guide me.
my son, nolan graduated from eighth grade that morning. i successfully kept up appearances, so i wouldn’t embarrass him after the ceremony ended, but on the inside i was feeling a tangle of nostalgia and sadness. graduating from the eighth grade is a big milestone for him, and a reminder for me that he is no longer my scrappy little kid. he’s now a rising freshman, five inches taller than me, and a really sweet young man with a good heart. in a way, he’s almost a completely new person to me. while over the past year we’ve had our difficulties directly related to these changes, i wasn’t quite prepared to have him leave the same day to stay with his grandparents for the summer up north. this happens every year, but for a boatload of reasons, this time felt different.
when i finally reached the promenade, the sun was already setting. a pink mentos candy, suspended over lower manhattan. i trotted past tourists snapping photos with their expensive cameras. inspired, i stopped and took a few myself. half way down the promenade, i had to shuffle carefully around a troupe of fifteen or so dancers in german costumes. i smiled as they unknowingly bounced around in time to the song on my running playlist.
at 3.5 miles, as i approached the top of columbia heights, i decided to slow down and walk. columbia heights ends with a steep hill leading down to brooklyn bridge park–perfect for hill repeats. i wasn’t planning on doing them, but i decided i could try a few, what with my left knee feeling a dull ache. with each determined dash up the hill (followed by a recovery walk back down), i felt both relief and bitter resolve. after limping over to the clark street subway station to head back home, i noticed that my running playlist had played through to the end. instead of hitting play again, i spent the train ride home in silence.