This should be an XT day, but open swim is rained out tonight. I’m okay with this because it’s only 56 degrees and supposed to be very windy this afternoon. Instead of swimming or running, I’m writing. For the past few days, I’ve been working on crafting a story about my latest running route to Lake Harriet. Here’s what I have so far:
The Run to Lake Harriet
The short version: taking the parkway for part of it and not the creek path.
Distance: 14-20 miles, depending on whether or not you run around Lake Harriet and/or Lake Nokomis.
The shortest version: mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha parkway/lake nokomis/minnehaha creek path/lake harriet/minnehaha creek path/lake nokomis/minnehaha parkway/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north
The longest version: mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha parkway/lake nokomis/minnehaha creek path/around lake harriet/minnehaha creek path/around lake nokomis/minnehaha parkway/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north
When you follow alongside water, you meander and, depending on the terrain and how the roads are laid out, cross over and under a lot of bridges and roads.
Cross over and under,
Move through and pass by,
Run near and alongside:
rivers, falling water, creeks, lakes,
rec centers, playgrounds, parking lots
waterways, pathways, parkways
streets, roads, avenues,
sidewalks, crosswalks, trails
bridges, arches, overpasses
and woods that wander beside water
that rushes, drips,
out of Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis and into Minnehaha Falls.
Number of times the running path crosses over Minnehaha Creek on the way to Lake Harriet: 6
Number of bridges you cross over or under: 16
Number of lights you must stop at: 5
Number of times the running path and biking path split and then come together again: 14?
Number of woods you run through: 5
Types of bridges: steel, wooden, concrete
Types of water: river, waterfall, creek, lake
Roads you run under: 46th street, Cedar Avenue, Chicago Avenue, 35W, Lyndale Avenue
Roads you run over: Hiawatha Avenue
Avenues you cross: 46th Avenue, Minnehaha Avenue, 39th-28th Avenues, 22nd Avenue, Bloomington Avenue, Portland Avenue
Roads you cross: Mississippi River Road
Streets you cross: 50th Street
Parkways you run by (or near): Minnehaha Parkway, Lake Nokomis Parkway, Lake Harriet Parkway
Number of giant bronze bunnies you run by: 1
Official name of bronze bunny: Cottontail on the trail
Number of old neighborhoods you run through: 1
Number of playgrounds you run by: 3
Places where you fill up your water bottle: Lynhurst Park, Lake Nokomis Rec Center
Number of hills you avoid because of the new path that goes under instead of over Lyndale Avenue: 1
Number of cats that have crossed your path while you’re running through the woods: 1
I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
When I’m on a long run, I try very hard not to think too much about how many miles I have to run, how many minutes I’ll be moving before I can stop, how many bridges I have left to cross. I pay attention to my surroundings: the crunchy grit on the path, the fragrant trees by the steel bridge, the rushing water of the creek below me, the sun as it filters through the forest. Or, I distract myself with a podcast. If I fail to pay attention to the moment or to distract myself from the enormity of my task, the run becomes much harder.
When our paths cross again.
The running path and biking path on this route separate and then come back together again 14 times. Early in the run, while still on the river road, these separations are slight, with just a small patch of grass or a parking lot between them. But from Lake Nokomis to Lake Harriet, the divide between the paths grows wider. While the bike path follows next to the road, remaining on one side of the creek for most of the route, the running path wanders nearer to the water and away from the road. Winding through woods. Curving under the arch of a bridge. Zigzagging from one side of the creek to the other. When the paths converge, it is the running path that (almost) always returns to the biking path, and not the other way around. The most dramatic moment when they meet is at a place when both paths have strayed from the road and into some woods. As they come out the woods and towards the road, the paths cross and those on the running path must watch carefully to avoid being hit by a speeding bike.
I’ve traveled this route for over 20 years. In the past, I biked. Now, I usually run, mostly because I like running and I’m training for a marathon, but partly because my macular degeneration makes biking difficult and sometimes dangerous, especially if I’m biking too fast. Maybe I should slow down.
When running for almost 3 hours, I enter into an almost dreamlike state, where I engage with the world differently. I am present, feeling the varied textures as I move from path to bridge to path again, noticing the change in temperature as I enter the small wood that blocks out the sun and warily eyeing the approaching dog, wondering if it will lunge as I pass by. But I am also absent. Not quite there. Passing through the moments in a daze, lulled into a trance by my steady footfalls and by my attempt to not think about how much it hurts, how much I want to be done, how much I have left to run.