Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach California

On the beach in Manhattan Beach California…..One of my favorite running routes!

It’s been a busy travel day.  In the course of an hour I’ve traveled to the beaches of Southern California (Manhattan Beach, CA….south of the Manhattan Beach pier to be exact) and later to the Appalachian trail in Maryland.  No, I’m not superman.

Despite the early morning fog, I decided to drive down to what folks around here call the “Green-way.”  It’s a paved path for walkers and cyclists.  I only had to say, “go car” and Brando “puppy” shot out the back door like a missile, tail a-wagging with delight to be included on another adventure.  I drove down the hill and made my way behind the Publix grocery store where I could park the car at the path’s entrance.  I sigh as I look at the path.  It’s paved…mostly concrete.  I fight the waves of negativity pulling on my heart….

I plugged my ear buds into my iPhone and selected iTunes to access my phone’s playlist.  I scrolled through the list selecting my “on-the-go” list which is an eclectic mix of music from rap to classical.  With Brando chomping at the bit, pulling hard on the leash because he sees a squirrel, we set out on the course.  The air was thick with fog and I’ll admit that I thought of turning around several times because there weren’t any people in sight and it was eerily silent save for the crackle of twigs once in a while by squirrels running to and fro and perhaps birds flitting from tree to tree.

When I was younger –only about five years younger than today–and had better knees, I wasn’t overly concerned about safety, heading out for a run nearly every day in the early morning darkness before most folks in the neighborhood were up.  I reasoned that if I was to be approached by someone with no good intentions I could outrun him (or her) at the very least, or kick my way out of a mess because I felt I was as strong as an ox.  Now its clear as cathedral bells pealing …. I cannot count on my knees to run away fast if my life depended on it. For the first time I’m having to pay close attention to my surroundings; I no longer feel secure when I’m out alone.  Ok…I’ll just say it…I feel old.

Still, I am not about to let fear run my life….well…OK…….I’m trying to not let fear run my life.  I’ll admit to struggling.

As my body warmed up, I could feel my joints move more freely.  There was an ease of motion in my cranky knees and hips…that early morning stiffness subsiding….

I started to jog. Yep…. I’m still holding on to jogging one or two days a week, though that is dwindling fast I’m afraid.    After my third knee surgery, I still was able to enjoy running three to four miles, three times a week, on the chip path that was a stone’s throw from the ocean.  Since moving to “middle earth” there is no chip path near my house–only concrete–which is murder on my trashed knees.  So now it’s a walk-jog combination that I am clinging to for dear life…literally…and only once a week at best.  The other days of the week I can manage power walking. I’m trying to like it, really.  It is very difficult.  Walking is just not the same as running. It does not give me that famous “runner’s high,” that endorphin-kick-in-butt-feeling that lasts for hours after a good run.  A feeling that leaves me in good spirits and less prone to nag at my husband about anything.

Sigh….

Heavy heart.  But I digress…..

Today I was able to manage two miles of jogging followed by two miles of power walking.  Which brings me back around to my travel status…..

I ran my first 50-mile race in 1997.  It was held in November and a portion of that distance (16 miles to be exact) was on the Appalachian trail in Maryland.  It was mighty chilly at the start but quickly warmed and would turn out to be a beautiful, sunny autumn day with colorful leaves on the ground as well as on the trees along the C&O Canal towpath that runs parallel to the Potomac river.  Just moments before the gun went off to officially start the race I could hear music coming from someone’s boom-box on the sideline.  The song playing (as I later learned) was a one-hit wonder piece from the band Chumbawamba, called “TubThumping.”  The refrain stuck in my head in that instant and those words kept me going…literally…for 50 miles.

I get knocked, down but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked, down but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked, down but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked, down but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

When I got my first iPod, TubThumping was one of the first songs I included in my marathon playlist.  To this day, whenever I hear that song I am immediately transported back to that November day.  I can see myself running along the narrow, steep path of the Appalachian trail, dodging rocks and trail debris as well as other runners as I made my way up and down the mountain and later down the treacherous switchbacks leading to the towpath.  I can also see myself running on the flat towpath…all 42 miles of that section….along the river, passing aid stations and people cheering us on…and then the last 8 miles along country roads with cows a-mooing in their fertile pastures as we passed them on our way to the finish line.  I get knocked, down but I get up again….You’re never gonna keep me down still playing in my head, over and over again.  It’s my been my mantra for all these years since that day….and every time I hear that song I am back on the Appalachian trail running with 900 other runners, competing in the most challenging event of my life (other than child-birth!) and feeling like I could do absolutely anything in the world when I finally crossed the finish line.

So, you guessed it….as I struggled to enjoy my walk-jog this morning along a concrete path in “middle earth” Alabama, and yes…even feeling sorry for myself for a variety of reasons…. “TubThumping” was one of the songs that played from my playlist set to shuffle.  I had not heard that song in months!  Wowza.  Just what I needed.  So once again, I was traveling back in time to a place that and an event that made a huge impact on my life.

What about Manhattan Beach, California?  Ah….so many songs on my playlist bring me back to California!  After all, I ran there for 8 years!

The song that instantly transports me back to California…along the ocean….running with bare feet or wearing my Vibram Five-Finger shoes….feet getting wet, sand between the toes…..?  A sweet, slow, repeating, and perfect selection on my yoga music playlist by Steve Gold, So Much Magnificence.

……There is so much… magnificence in the ocean
Waves are coming in, waves are coming in ……

I am back….at the ocean.  There is a lovely ocean breeze and hundreds of sea gulls bask in the morning sun. I can see the dolphins frolicking close to shore, and the stand-up paddle boarders and surfers must be feeling doubly blessed for the entertainment before their eyes.  Sigh… I guess for now, that will have to do….which makes the moment a plus TEN on the bliss-o-meter scale.