So, unbeknownst to most of the world, I’ve taken up the sport of running in recent months. “Running” is a generous word. Trotting would be more apt to describe what I do. I think on a good day, with the wind at my back, I can do a mile in just under twenty minutes, which is not much faster than walking, so read the word “running” with that understanding.
I started running with Flike at the dog park. He thinks it’s cute. Me trotting along; him dancing before me, urging me forward or vigorously shaking a stick close to my shins. We’ve estimated that the perimeter of the off-leash dog park is about one-third of a mile. When I started running back in the winter, I was lucky if I could do even a third of that third. (I am no longer a youngster — but I’m still younger than FC!) On my last trip to the park — more than a week ago — I made it around four times without stopping: a mile and a third!
So, as you know if you read yesterday’s unfocused post, I was in Rhode Island part of last week and over the weekend. Among the many, many attractions in that tiny state is the Cliff Walk that runs along the coast, beside the obscenely opulent mansions of the ultra, ultra rich. I had this notion that if I ran on that course, that I would be edified and encouraged to run farther and longer than I ever had before. And since my daughter Rachel (who has run four marathons and dozens of smaller races) and son-in-law Travis (who has run at least two marathons and dozens of smaller races) were along, I thought I might be able to learn from from my betters. Thus on Sunday morning, we drove from our hotel to the lovely town of Newport and then out to the trailhead for the Cliff Walk.
The setting is magnificent, and if you’re ever in that part of the world, you should treat yourself to an hour or two of ambling on this walk. I told Rachel and Travis to go on ahead of me; there was no way I would be able to keep up with them. They were gracious enuf to stay with me for a short distance, giving me tips on shoes and socks and speed and stance and style and stuff. But then they were off.
The Walk has been maintained well, though when I was last in RI, perhaps 15 years ago, parts of the Walk had fallen into the sea (I think). Well, it’s fine now. And it certainly is a fine place for pounding the pavement (though I’m told I don’t have a pounding running style). Here is part of what I saw:
I’m not sure what that body of water is correctly called. It’s salt water, and if you stuck with it, you could eventually paddle to the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t think it’s Long Island Sound. It’s probably a bay of some name. (Easton Bay?) But that doesn’t matter. It was on my left the entire run out, and it was as gorgeous as you can imagine.
There were a bunch of things like this on my right:
That one is the Breakers, probably the nicest of the mansions. This is a lot like what I’m thinking of building out at Roundrock. Curiously, at the start of the trail, there were warning signs about staying away from the edge of the cliffs or face a seventy-foot fall to the rocks and surf below. That looked like a legitimate warning, even though there was a well-worn path beyond each of these signs. But there were also signs that cautioned walkers and runners to beware of the poison ivy growing beside the path. I happen to know what poison ivy looks like, and I did not see a single leaf of it. I suspect that was a bogus warning, intended to keep the curious from pushing through the scrub to get better views of the mansions. (I did see what looked like wacky tabacky, but I confess I’m not well informed about that plant.)
I pressed on, only having the vaguest sense of how far I was going. The Walk has a number of access points where nearby streets meet it, and there were signs saying how far the next access point was. I urged myself to run to the next access point, and since I couldn’t really see it until I was upon it, I didn’t have much sense of just how far I had to go. Not knowing that meant that I didn’t mentally vow to stop as soon as I reached it. I would just go until I reached it. And when I did, I vowed to keep going to the next one. The paved walk was smooth, though it was narrow in most places, as you can see from that top photo. On the run out, I didn’t encounter many people (though there were a number of runners who came upon me from behind and flowed past me, making it look so effortless and causing surges of envy in me, envy that perhaps even pushed me on).
So on I “ran.” I met occasional dog walkers (most of whom ignored the admonition to keep their dogs on leashes, but most of the dogs were Labs, which seem to love everyone in the world and train up well so were well behaved — I met with no problems and took a few occasions to stop and pet them briefly). I did also stop at one point to gasp for air and wait for the shiny points of light to stop appearing before my eyes. But aside from those moments, I kept my legs moving the whole time. I was pleased.
At one “distant” point, the paved trail gave way to this:
Would this be called rock scrambling? Rip rap running? Foolishness? It reminded me of climbing Pinnacle Mountain in Arkansas a few weeks before. I leapt from boulder to boulder, but I didn’t try very hard to keep the same pace as I had before as I crossed this. You can see the end of this section (down by that first white house), so I didn’t have to go far, but something inside my little head told me it was about time to turn around. When I reached pavement on the far side, I didn’t run much father before I came to the next access point. A sign there reported that the access point beyond that was two miles ahead. As I said, I was using these access points as my distance markers and taunts to keep going. I didn’t think I had it in me to run two more miles (much less to run them back plus what I had already run). Thus I decided to turn around at that point.
But since it was a morning of self encouragement, and since I was feeling pretty good, I decided I was going to run the whole way back (so I was glad I hadn’t decided to push on for those last two miles). The run back was much the same, though it turns out the water was on my right the whole way. I guess I should have expected that.
This is not a great photo, given the shadow (and possibly the exhausted state of the photographer), but it does show how narrow the path is as well as how hard the property owners work to keep the unwashed masses from venturing onto their private property. But what you really need to see here is that strip of sand in the distance (on the right). That was where my morning run began and where it would end.
And it did. I “ran” the whole way, stopping only twice (plus to pet a few dogs and take a few pix — a total of less than five minutes on a hour+ run), but my clever daughter and son-in-law assured me that was perfectly legitimate and part of the whole running experience. Based on the distance markers given at the various access points (some in quarter miles and some in third miles) I calculated that I had run a total of three miles that morning. I realize that doesn’t sound like much, but it was more than twice the best I had ever run before. I was pleased with myself.
And pissed with myself.
I learned that I could do it. I learned that if I urged myself, I could run three miles now. I had progressed that far in my personal improvement program. You know what that means. Now I have to do it. I have no excuse.
Expect that I do.
Two days later, in another of the great States of this Union, I couldn’t push myself to do more than a mile, and that included a lot of stops to walk and gasp and wait for those points of light to go away. But that’s a tale for another day.