A bad idea evolves into a good run

On National Bike to Work Day, I drive our biggest gas guzzler to a nearby trail to run laps.

This isn’t a work day for me, and none of the operational bikes in our garage fit me particularly well. I suppose I could’ve at least gone jogging in our neighborhood. It is, after all, a beautiful morning.

But I’ve been working on decluttering my mind instead of cramming more in — such as the irritating realization that I don’t actually have a functioning bike — and this 1.25 mile loop fits my needs this morning, when I want to run and write at the same time. This way I can run a lap or two, grab my notebook out of the van to jot down any ideas kicked loose while jogging, then run another lap.

Besides, coming here, to this path on the edge of Ossian, is a good way to chart my progress in both running and life.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I had trouble fighting off the urge to stop each time I looped around by the parking lot. Then, not too long after I got over that hurdle, a guy at work told me about this race in North Carolina where the participants have to gulp down a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the middle of a four mile race. And so naturally some subversive part of my subconscious got the notion that this particular path would be a great place to stage my own private Krispy Kreme Challenge: Run a couple of laps, tackle a box of doughnuts in the relative privacy of the minivan, then force myself to run two more laps as penance.

I never acted on that particular impulse. But for quite a while after that I mentally bookmarked this path as the site of the Krispy Kreme Challenge — which meant I stayed away if I was feeling weak or came away frustrated that I couldn’t seem to get that stupid fat-bomb fantasy out of my head.

Then over spring break we went out to Taos, New Mexico, where I discovered all kinds of cool bakeries and coffee shops within easy jogging distance of our hotel. Like a good girl, I did my weekly weigh-in on a souvenir shop’s coin-operated antique scale. But the next morning — the one day of the week where I let myself indulge a bit —  I set out for my morning jog planning a definite layover at some sugar refueling station.

But there must be something in the ultra thin air out there that coaxes my better self into action, because I wound up outside a book store instead of a bakery. Instead of empty calories, I decide to load up on free books. I coveted four of them. But the image of lugging that much extra weight two miles back to the hotel seems to bother me a whole lot more than the idea of jogging with an overly full belly, so I put two back and hit the road, feeling enormously pleased with myself.

It‘s not like my Krispy Kreme fantasy disappeared entirely that morning. But I did find myself starting to think about lightening my load in other ways. Now it at least enters my mind, when I’m overwhelmed by frustration, that the best thing to do is something that helps ease my burden — laundry, dishes, decluttering — rather than add to it by piling on more calories or caffeine.

This new use of the Ossian Trail feels like a great way to do that. Running shakes half-formed thoughts out of my head and into my notebook, where they have half a chance to take shape and make some difference in my life.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I could’ve done this same exercise — and better honored the spirit of National Bike to Work Day — by toting my notebook along on a jog through the neighborhood, where I could‘ve dropped it along the edge of the woods, then doubled back later to make notes.

But see, that’s exactly the kind of idea that doesn’t usually occur to me until I’m in the middle of a run. Which reminds me — I need to get back out there and finish this one.

(And later on I’m glad I did, or I wouldn’t have run into my friend Elaine, whom I hadn’t seen for several months.)

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