I was running fine last summer in Bozeman, maybe even well. But not by a mile was I expecting to wake up one morning to find I'd been incarnated as a better runner than I'd ever hoped to become. And yet.
Early on my first morning visiting my parents in Lake Oswego, I laced up my shoes and jogged down to the path along the river. We were expecting heat later in the day, but conditions were ideal at sunrise. With the trees looming above me, the river sparkling below me, and the air filling my lungs with the rich oxygen of home, I took to the path like any animal returned to its native habitat.
There are days—any runner knows them—when we surprise ourselves. This, for me, was one of those days. It was as if my legs had been removed in the night and replaced by the legs of a superior runner. It wasn't the speed itself that enthralled me. It was the ease of the speed. The farther into the run I got the faster I went. Yet no matter how fast I went I never could never feel like I was straining. I wasn't quite foolish enough to think I was without limits, but it sure felt to me exactly as if I were without limits.
But if my body was not my own, my thoughts mostly were. I recognized myself in my mind. If I had undergone a metamorphosis in the night, I thought, would I of all people be the one to know it? Yet was this awareness itself not evidence enough that I was still me enough to notice that I wasn't? It gets metaphysical quickly, this running.
Maybe I should stop thinking, I thought, and simply enjoy what had to be due simply to the elevation change between the Gallatin Valley and the Willamette Valley. I had long wanted to be the kind of person who is graceful enough to accept life's gifts when they are given.
And so I ran as only this particular animal on this particular day could. What choice was there? If a runner knows anything, he knows this.
Later, back at my parents' place, I reflected that whatever mystery had produced this run and elevated me, however briefly, into a different class of runner was the same mystery that assigned me the ability I usually knew myself to possess. The fact of an easy seven-minute pace is every bit the miracle of the six-minute pace.
I went out again the next morning. I ran fine, maybe even well. But I was the same old me again, as I reasoned I had been all along, even if for a single morning I felt like I was someone else entirely.