Friday, October 23, 2009

Off trail

When the sun first comes out after days of rain it always takes on a fairy godmother attitude and sprinkles star dust on everything making colors brighter. Last Monday was like that, with the added urgency of warmth after a sudden chill.

Over the weekend I had read the roving runner's post on Prospect Park and was inspired to get off trail in the park.

Though I usually stick to the main roads, instead of running on them I prefer to run on the ribbon of pounded grass, sand, or gravel next to it. It's kinder on the joints and avoiding tree roots and puddles adds excitement. But there are plenty of areas on the loops that don't have that extra shoulder and I'm back to running on asphalt.

Going off trail appealed to me, but I had never dared to. I was afraid. A twisted ankle, and I'd be stuck in the wilds of Prospect Park, unable to get back to civilization. I was also scared there might be evil men lurking, waiting for poor defenseless runners, ready to pounce on them.

But if the roving runner could do it, so could I. So last Monday I decided to leave my fears at home, run to the park, follow the loop down to the lake and get off the trail from there while trying to reach Grand Army Plaza.

The weather was perfect for a run: cold enough to need gloves, with no wind and plenty of sun. After a few days of not biking to work because of the rain, my body felt well rested and craved exertion. My ankles felt strong and my knees were not complaining.

The run might have been somewhere between 5-6 miles, but I couldn't tell. The park does something weird once you get off the main paths. The time/space continuum breaks and expands - making the lake larger, the hills higher, and the forest was actually somewhere in the Catskills. The stillness around me so complete I had to turn off my music and listen. All there was: my breathing and my footsteps. I really could not hear anything else, even when I stopped.

When came out of the woods I was back in Prospect Park, running across the meadow, ready to get back on the loop and run towards the 15th Street exit.

The only dangerous moment was once I left the park. As I ran across the intersection towards the Pavillion, I caught a cute bicyclist's attention as he passed me. He looked back to continue staring at me and forgot to turn his head back to see where he was going. I smiled at him as he veered around the corner and he almost crashed into the curb. Almost.

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