Early Ro (ten): Year Twelve – Runner

This is the second in a series of posts about Ro’s twelfth year.

It is after school late in May, 1994, just a few days following Ro’s twelfth birthday, and she is riding her bike on the Shadowbrook Bike Path on her way to visit her friend Atti, except about halfway there she has to pull over to the side because there are a dozen teenage girls running towards her, essentially taking up the whole path.

Most are wearing red T-shirts with the silver silhouette of a horse-mounted knight, clearly identifying them as being some sort of sports team from Lee’s Landing’s Neufeld High School.

Even from some twenty yards away Ro can hear the chatter and laughter among the pack of girls as they ran.

Except for one…

While there is nothing at all exceptional about her physical appearance – she is roughly the same height and build as most of the girls, she is wearing the same T-shirt, she is pleasant looking, but not noticeably pretty – Ro is nonetheless captivated.

She is running alone, maybe ten yards ahead of the pack, her strides long and effortless; where the other girls all seem to be bobbing up and down, she seems to be gliding across the landscape.

But it is her expression, or really, lack thereof, that beguiles Ro. It seems like she is both staring at everything and nothing; while she certainly seems conscious of her surroundings, at the same time she seems to be entirely lost in herself, or rather in her running. Years later Ro would learn this was what hard core runners refer to as The Runner’s Zen, their Nirvana.

It took only a few seconds for the girl to come up on and then pass by Ro standing next to the bike path, but it was a few seconds that would have a profound impact on her. The only other time she had ever seen that kind of total concentration was when she and Mike would watch a classical music concert on the public TV station and the violin or piano soloist would seem to totally lose themselves in their music − there was no orchestra, no audience, just the music.

Perhaps it should have, but it had never occurred to Ro you could find that state of inner harmony through an athletic endeavor; it was a revelation.

As the other girls passed, most continued their chatter; a few even nodded to her, acknowledging her presence. Ro smiled to herself, thinking, “I could have been standing here stark naked and she wouldn’t haven’t noticed me.”

It was at that moment that Ro knew she wanted to experience that kind of totality of purpose for herself… And decided to be a runner, too.

It was to become an integral part of her life. It didn’t take more than a few weeks for her to get her legs under her, that is, to be able to run a mile without becoming breathless, and then a second mile, and then a third…

For several years the bike path, and to a lesser extent her surrounding neighborhood, was where she ran three, sometimes four times a week. But when she turned sixteen and could drive on her own, she “discovered” that the wooded trails in the state park and the adjacent forest preserve in the southwestern part of the county that she had so enjoyed hiking on with her father were for her an even more rewarding running venue – the “tree thing” again − and she was truly hooked.

(C) 2017 Dave Lager