We’re in a bit of a heat wave currently, and that makes running doubly hard. I had the convenient excuse of kid duty on Friday and no choice but to avail myself of the YMCA’s child watch to log a few miles on the ol’ treadmill. I don’t think I’ve been on one of those rolling torture devices since before the VCM. Maybe Prozac isn’t the only reason why my mood has dramatically improved! Honestly, I don’t think that I mind treadmills at all. At least I don’t think I do. I’d rather run than not run. Ice, darkness, cold; the dreaded dark and cold combo; And not least of all, insufferable heat and humidity; could lead any sane person to shrug, throw the hands up, and say “not today.”
So all winter long when I opted for the “no excuses treadmill,” I felt pretty good about myself. I would show up there, watch a little close-captioned Jeopardy on the overhead TV, and tell myself I’m keeping up with my training. But I have to wonder. For someone with depression and anxiety, running’s attraction is its ability to reduce stress and lighten your mood. You lose something, staring at a screen or a monitor instead of the passing trees and houses. It’s hard to measure but it’s real.
My in-laws came to town Friday evening, and I have to say my stress and anxiety crept up in anticipation. My 3 year old son, being my son after all, exhibited all of the behaviors consistent with the feelings and sensations I was experiencing. Sometimes I get this spooky feeling, like I’m a puppet master and he’s on invisible marionette strings. Oh honey, I could throw myself on the floor and scream right now too… but you’re doing it for me… so instead I will calmly tell you to take deep breaths and ask if you need a hug, or if you’re thirsty? Need a snack? Sigh. We got through the day. And it was great seeing my kids reunited with their grandparents from Montana (which, by the way, is where my banner photo was taken).
One of the many benefits of a visit from the in-laws is built in babysitting. For a mom bit by the workout bug, guilt free exercise is like manna from heaven. With the grandparents around it’s like “mommy who?” and I love it. So I did a 4 mile run in the scorching (and I mean scorching) heat on Saturday morning. Wish I could say that it went well but we take the runs we get, not the runs we want. And we’re better for it.
Sunday, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise! I saw an ad for a led, “beginners” trail run in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. I tried to get a couple of the moms I’ve met through day care to join me, but no such luck. More on that later. I decided to go by myself anyway. The guide was a very nice guy and accomplished trail runner who occasionally organizes these runs through the Friends of the Fells organization. It was a small group, and we did more waiting and trotting than actual running, but I experienced sections of the woods and covered far more ground than I ever would have by myself. So I was pretty pumped. Here’s a look at the route my Garmin tracked:
The Middlesex Fells is a very mysterious place to me. I think my imaginative/creative side mythologized it at some point in my childhood. The prickly feeling I get must be the detritus of making a home from whence you came. These are old woods. My family goes back three generations around here. We’ve co-existed without meeting for so long! The woods is where bad kids went to get trashed, only to be hauled home in Melrose police cars to face disapproving parents. The woods is where rabid raccoons of the eighties slept in between raiding your garbage cans. And very sadly, the woods is where closeted gay men met for illicit trysts in broad daylight. The sight of empty parked cars along the shoulder raised suspicion. My little kids won’t grow up with the same misplaced anxieties. My little kids will see the woods for what they are, a beautiful and magical playground waiting to be explored.