I’m not gonna lie, I thought it’d be a lot easier to take a break from the track then it’s been, and not because I feel I need a break in some way, but because I’m a chill, take things as they come type of guy. I figured, “if life gives you lemons instead of mangoes, make lemonade”. And while no doubt shifting my energy from workouts to work has led to more than a few pitchers of lemonade, damn if my Holly Golightly attitude hasn’t become a little Tyrone Biggums these last several days (Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Dave Chapelle fans will get the reference). In other words, 3 weeks out and the jones for endorphins is making me a little cracky.

But it isn’t only the physical stuff I’m starting to miss — the chemical rush, the muscle burn, the increased heart rate — I miss the people as well. There’s a sense of community on the track — folks like myself who are there on a regular basis training, working out or just using their lunch break to get some exercise and chat with coworkers. On one level or another, I’ve gotten to know the Cal track coach (a big fan of shadow), the tennis coach, kids on the track team, campus workers, senior athletes and Olympians. It’s a diverse group of people, but we all seem to share an almost conspiratorial commitment to being out there.

When I began going to the track over a year ago, one of the first people I met was an 82-year-old masters athlete named Shirley who’s been running and training there for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. Almost every time we’re out there, she’ll slow to my pace (a humbling gesture to be sure) and for a lap or so engage me in conversation. This is a real treat, as she’s an enthusiastic storyteller who’s openly shared many colorful details about her life, her childhood, her husband’s medical problems, her travels and her athletic accomplishments.

When she first told me the story of her arrival here in Berkeley after the war, I assumed — showing my age — she was referring to Vietnam. But as the story progressed and was filled in with more details it became clear she was actually referring to World War II. This was a profound realization for me, as it sparked not only a sense of gratitude for being able to hear her story, but the stories of so many dear friends who’ve lived remarkable lives in other places and other times.

For many — outside of the team environment — the exercise/workout thing is a solitary experience. One may be surrounded by a hundred other people as they do their stationary bike or crunches at 24 hour fitness, but nine times out of ten we isolate ourselves by having an iPod pulsing away in our ears. There’s not anything wrong with this, it’s the nature of the beast (and besides what better way to motivate oneself than with music), but for me, at least, it’s different and in some ways I feel lucky because of it.

For good or for bad, I need somebody to accompany me to the track; among other things, I need help with my hourly pressure relief, somebody to clean up after Shadow (grass is the perfect toilet) and while close to my house, I need help navigating the uphill climb and busy intersection to get there. An iPod — given the circumstances — would almost seem alienating.

There are times, of course, when I’d like to to crank the Wu Tang or Devotchka and immerse myself in my objective, but those times are very very rare. Mostly, I just feel fortunate to be sharing the time with my friends like Carlos, Giovanna, Luke, Thelma, Shirley and the rest, gabbing about life and growing closer to my fellow human beings.

January 6th is the day the cast is supposed to come off and it couldn’t be soon enough. I’m not saying I drive by the track at odd hours of the night to get a sniff of the artificial surface, but it’s definitely crossed my mind.

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou.


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