Muscle Memory, part 1

It’s finally spring: snowbanks are but a memory, the sun is gaining strength, and there’s enough daylight to run until 7pm.

That means it’s time to rediscover outdoor conditioning and think ahead to warm-weather performance. Or, as I thought after my first 5-mile run in ages, it’s time to find out if muscle memory actually exists. Perhaps it’s just the memory of having muscle?

When I got back into running a couple years ago, it was not pretty. IĀ  distinctly remember slogging a few miles, all sloppy and sluggish, then feeling my legs hit the right cadence for a while. It was amazing, the electric shock that went through my system when that muscle memory returned, however briefly (it might have lasted a quarter-mile). It was enough to get me back out on the road again and again, hoping to extend those periods when my quads snapped in time, feet hit the ground just right, and my spine was a conduit of energy.

The best part of hitting my stride is when the nagging thoughts about work, kids, or simply not wanting to run suddenly slip away and are replaced by a blank slate that is completely tuned in to my run, my breathing, the rhythm of my feet. It’s that “be here now” thing that all of the new age-y folks preach about. There’s nothing like it. But perhaps I’m just too old to recognize what’s really going on: an article in the New York Times says the “runner’s high” isn’t all endorphins, but in fact the body creates endocannabinoids when running, which mimic the effects of marijuana. So, call me a junkie.

There’s also the motivational pull of watching others in training for the Boston Marathon. When I see them streaming down “East Main Hill” in Hopkinton, through the center of Natick, and over Route 128 on the Newton/Wellesley line, I get an unbearable urge to pursue. I’m hoping that and the runner’s buzz will propel me back into shape… if I can avoid the post-run munchies.


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