Ever had a routine or an experience from your past that seems like it happened just yesterday? Might have been a time in high school, a job that you had or even a relationship. While going for a walk the other day, I had a memory from my college days that popped in fresh as a batch of cookies right out of the oven. Not quite sure what triggered it, but I started thinking about my favorite jogging route that I traversed as a sophomore at Oregon State University. Although I can’t tell you why it popped into my head after being buried all of these years (23 to be exact), I can tell you that it was an important time in my life as I had just come off of knee surgery and was beginning to get back into shape with a knee that I wasn’t sure how it would respond. Maybe that helped stamp this memory into my psyche…who knows…all I do know is that I had a lot of fun and got to see a nice cross section of the Oregon State campus and community that abutted it. I started out going through a residential section before I took a left and skirted the outskirts of the campus and some of the agricultural college’s buildings and work stations. On the good days, that is if the wind was blowing in the right direction, I didn’t smell the cows that were penned up in a large field. On the bad days, well let’s just say that I was probably a bit faster than normal as I made my way forward on my route. I would pretend that I was Olympic marathoner Frank Shorter running the last ¼ mile of his gold medal winning performance in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Although my version of Frank Shorter had his nose pinched closed with his thumb and forefinger and had to breathe entirely through his mouth. The rest of my route was a bit kinder to my sense of smell, although it gave both comfort to and caused problems to some of my other 4 senses.
As I left the sometimes traumatic “agricultural section” of my run, the next portion was easier on my sense of smell, but depending on what time of day I went running could be a bit hard to see. This was a long stretch, maybe a mile long that was on a bike path. The bike path portion was just fine, it was very smooth and I didn’t have to worry about tripping or stubbing my toe on anything. The problem came from the fact that this was on the very outskirts of campus and the community and there were no street lights out here; it bordered on farm land. So when I ran at night (which I did most of the time), it was very dark during this portion of the run. Now the darkness didn’t necessarily bother me. It was kind of cool actually. My other senses came alive without being able to see very well. It also made me feel more rogue and adventurous. Most of the time, I could see the faint shadows of trees or stop signs; especially if the moon was present. If I let my mind wander, I would pretend they were foreign spies out to get me; but they never did. I was not afraid out there, although I had more run-ins than I could count on the fingers of one hand with possums or raccoons. They never did anything to harm me obviously, but they sure would startle the hell out of me when they went scurrying across the road right in front. I probably startled them as well. Here they are just going along minding their own business looking for dinner to take home to Mrs. Raccoon or Mrs. Possum and then some bundled up, heavy breathing creature jumps right out in front of them. I guess it works both ways……..
After making it through the spooky “James Bond” section of my run, I then took another left back onto a main road that eventually wound by the football stadium. There were street lights along this portion and nothing out of the ordinary. After having to deal with the smells of section one and the darkness in section two, I was ok with this. After taking yet another left at the football stadium I was heading back into campus and the home stretch. Now I still had a mile to go, so as far as home stretches go, this was a bit of a long one, but I had a lot of different sights to take in to make it seem shorter. A short distance from the football field was a large grass field that housed softball diamonds and a running track. I always enjoyed this section, because I would give my feet and legs a break and get off of the sidewalk and run on the grass; much more comfortable indeed. After making the transfer back onto the sidewalk, I then became immersed back into a sea of fellow students. My somewhat silent meditation was broken as I ran by countless school buildings, the MU and school housing. It was an abrupt change to be sure and not always welcomed. Sometimes I would yell at or wave at friends; other times just blend in with the huge wave of students, weaving in and out of their fears and dreams. Probably not too unlike mine at the time; although the fear of my knee not holding up and not returning back to normal was pretty much gone by now. It was one less weight to carry on my shoulders which grew stronger and more solid each day.
The last ¼ mile was down the street that I lived on and although I was pretty shy at the time, I knew it was show time and time to impress! It was imperative that I blew all the snot out of my nose and wipe all of the dried sweat off of my forehead. I wanted to look as good as I possibly could. No more limping, no more slouching even though I felt like doing both. You see I had to pass four sorority houses to get to where I lived. Although I never had my dream come true of a beautiful young coed come running out of her house as I jogged by saying, “stop, stop you are the man of my dreams”, I did finish my runs with grace, class and something to look forward to the next time. Having that next time to look forward to is sometimes everything in the world.