Where My Feet Have Taken Me

Where My Feet Have Taken Me
By Eric Clifford
 
Whose woods these are I think I know.  His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here  To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
 
My little horse must think it queer  To stop without a farmhouse near  Between the woods and frozen lake  The darkest evening of the year.   
 
He gives his harness bells a shake  To ask if there is some mistake.  The only other sound’s the sweep  Of easy wind and downy flake.   
 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,  But I have promises to keep,  And miles to go before I sleep,  And miles to go before I sleep.
 
 
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I have found that my runs have a lot in common with this poem. I have always thought of running as a microcosm of life; There are highs and lows, great joy and, great pain. A constant struggle to not only endure but to become the best you can be. I often run through the woods by my house thinking of times long ago when there wasn’t a four lane road just on the other side of the river. Fish were plentiful in it and not contaminated. I’m sorry but when they say you can eat the fish but no more than one pound a month because of the toxins… that’s just not good to me. 

  
     There are so many THINGS that just takeover our lives and the drain it puts on us mentally and physically can at times be overwhelming. You struggle to get through the day. The week. Till the next check wondering how you can make it to the other side without losing it. I used to play football. It worked well. I could go beat the crap out of someone and not get in trouble for it. I studied martial arts. Another good choice. But I stopped that when I had my nose broken (for the third time in my life) and it lined it back up so I could breathe normally again. Cheaper than surgery anyway. But with all my friends not wanting to do anything other than golf on occasion and me, by the third hole I’m bored out of my mind, I needed something else to do. On your mark! Maybe I’ll try running. Get set! Woods are a couple blocks away, I’ve got shoes… Go! Talk about aggravating. I had been so used to running fast for short distances that by a half mile I was gassed. My side hurt. I didn’t think there was enough air outside and my legs felt like jelly. One sad sorry son of bitch walked home and was pissed for the next few days thinking; What the hell is wrong with me? Ok, let me think about this. I ran track for Oak Park as a kid… What did I do then? 
 
     I put together a plan. It’s a mile from here through the woods to River Road. That’s two round trip. Ok, first thing is to make that distance. Just keep moving forward running as much as possible not as fast as possible. Soon I was running the whole distance and feeling good. Then I worked on speed and soon realized running two miles in less than fifteen minutes wasn’t doing it for me. My next challenge, make this more interesting.
 
    I thought running the way I had been, straight and fast was like riding a motorcycle; Anybody can go straight but can you turn? I started running down the trail and then would jump into the tree line running around, jumping over, ducking under trees and branches until I really couldn’t breathe anymore then, I would get back on the trail and catch my breath and do it all again. This was a great workout. But I had to run farther. It was two miles through the woods to a grove where the was a steep and long hill that is used for sledding. Run to there, run the hill a few times and head back home. Now I had three good runs to do; One from two to five miles on a trail. One that went off trail into the tree line and one that was five mile plus some hill climbs. 
 
    All was going well but we were moving. Started looking for a house and found the one we live in now. The process took a while and my runs were taking a hit because of it. Then we bought the home and with all the work I was doing my runs stopped. Not as bad as you might think because I could ride my bike to work most of the time so that was about 6.5 miles each way so I was staying in decent condition. Then one cold morning while driving to work a car crossed the double yellow line and hit me head on. 
 
    One month off work. Three months of therapy. I had a bruise the shape of my seatbelt (across my chest and back across my waste) for a couple weeks. Well, I didn’t get back to working out for a long time. Even after I felt better I just didn’t do it. My weight went up to 220 pounds. I’m 5’9″, that is not a good look for me let alone being able to do things without becoming exhausted. One day I was sitting on the edge of the bed and bent over to tie my shoes and it felt like my head was going to explode. I’m not kidding. The pressure made my eyes hurt. I decided that I was going to get in shape starting the next day. Many of you know that part of the story from the last time I wrote one of these. I’ve run many races since then. 5Ks, 8Ks, 10 milers, several halfs’ and about 12-13 marathons. I was supposed to run another marathon this weekend but my left thigh has swollen 1 1/2 – 2 inches bigger than my right because of an IT Band issue I’ve been dealing with for a while now. So, as in life there are ups and downs. Carefree times and major setbacks but it’s all about getting your feet on the floor and moving them forward. Always forward.
 
    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,  But I have promises to keep,  And miles to go before I sleep.
 
 
 
 
 

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