Monday, May 6, 2013

The run

He climbs slowly up the five flights of stairs to their apartment on the fourth floor, sweat dripping from his arms, face and shirt. He pauses between the second and third floor to stretch his calves and back with one foot placed three steps up the stair from the landing. After a few seconds, he switches legs, noticing as he does the drops already pooling beneath him. Some days he does all the steps to to top and then back down to the apartment, but not today.
Arriving at the flat he takes the key from his pocket and slides it into the lock, trying to open the door quietly.
"How was your run?"
"Fine" His usual response. For some reason he is reticent to speak much about it. Occasionally, he'll admit it was a tough day or a hard run. Today was more like normal so he just said "fine".
"Where did you go?"
"My usual route".
He thought back over it. He had walked down the stairs, out the gate and down just past the school to the first speed bump, where he clicked the timer on his watch and began to jog. Around the corner onto Kirol road, he went stiffly and without much speed, then past the buses parked in front of the mostly empty Kohinoor Mall. He went by the spot where a few weeks ago there had been a dead dog being worked over by the crows. It had surprised him how soon the spot disappeared.
He came to the corner where a man always seemed to be having his morning bath,then past the intersection of the road leading from the little "village", where he always had to watch for rickshaws. As the road straightened out he started to get into a little rhythm , thinking about his breathing. He had read a "Runners World" article about running with an odd rather than even stride per breath ratio, so sometimes he thought about it as he ran, using either a 3:2 or a 4:3 tempo, depending on how he felt. He liked it.
Approaching the next corner , where the road led to the Vidyavihar train station and his longer route, he began to feel his hips loosen a little. He went straight through the narrow street near the temple, then around the curve by Fatima High School and Jolly Gymkhana. He always enjoyed this stretch, with the trees on either side and the early morning exercisers on the cricket fields at Jolly. Then the slight rise into the residential neighborhood past the little Jain shrine. He looked for the old couple now, walking so slowly and carefully. The first few times he ran past them, they looked at him blankly, but the last few times he had seen recognition and even a response to his greeting. He wondered how old they were and if maybe the man had had a stroke.
Left down the lane then right around another school on the corner, up the next road and he neared the business area on Mahatma Gandhi Road and his halfway turn. Taking the little one-way loop, he looked to see if they were feeding anyone at the temple on the corner. A couple of times there had been some monks or priests serving our food to fifty or sixty people lined up outside. There weren't any today.
On the way back he ran more smoothly and easily, hitting his rhythm. It usually takes him about a minute less on the return trip. Of course he is soaking wet by this point, with sweat dripping off several points, including the tips of his little fingers as he swings his arms. Running back along the way he came, with the sun at his back, he sees a few other joggers running the other way, back to Jolly Gymkhana. He exchanges little nods of respect with several of the older gents as they recognize each other's efforts. Reaching the last long straight-away coming to the Kohinoor mall, he picks up the pace just a little, then makes the turn onto his street and runs just a little faster. (Of course, faster is a relative term in the heat and humidity). Finishing his run, he turns into the gate, then walks down the end of the apartment complex and back to cool down a little before climbing the stairs to the apartment.
"How was your run?"

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