Leaves conceal the trail. Credit: Brad Morrison
By salvaging parts from several pairs of decommissioned, yard work-bound running shoes (laces, two soles, one tongue), I’m able to patch together one sturdy pair. Then it’s out the door, truck, 64 East, 195 South, Downtown Expressway, Roseneath Exit, Boulevard Bridge (where I learn there’s only enough change in the armrest for one pass through the toll), and over the James River (passing the cyclists on the footbridge as they pass pedestrians.) I weave and wind my way to Riverside Drive (without a doubt the most popular name for river-adjacent streets), and park at Reedy Creek. Stretch, walk, stretch a little more, walk a little more.
It’s November, and autumn is moving quickly from the trees to the ground. Leaves that a few months ago hid the river from view are now attempting to conceal the trail. The cool air is noticeable but not unpleasant. When I breathe I can see my breath. I pull the chilly air in through my nose, jut out my chin, and exhale a cloud the size of a volleyball.
Buttermilk Trail. Credit: Brad Morrison
I pick up a walking stick, but since I don’t really need it for walking I swing it around like a baseball bat, like a sword. To anyone watching I’m dueling against an invisible foe. My forward progress makes it look like I’m winning. When I lob the stick into the bushes, it looks like we decided whatever (or whoever) we were fighting over wasn’t worth it.
I needed to get out and run today, but not at the gym (TV, TV, TV, TV), and not through a neighborhood again (house, house, house, another house), but outside, along a wooded trail, beneath ivy-gripped trees and chirpy, branch-hopping birds, lit by the purple and orange glow of an early morning sky.
Out here I can traverse, navigate, estimate, manage, negotiate, wander and dodge. Rain-slick boulders are sidestepped. Half-fallen trees are ducked. Stone-riddled creeks are hurdled. The steady, sandy tap of my Frankensteined shoes jabbing into the dirt of Buttermilk Trail feels like a second heart beat. Tree roots appear, and I step on each one like fingers walking up the keys of a piano. Up ahead there’s a steeply banked turn. I accelerate, and my center of gravity unfurls like wings.