rejuvenation of running in the forest

I love to run. Not like a real runner, mind you, not like I have ever been out pounding out mile after mile. Not like I ever bought into the culture or the look or racing. I just always loved to run. Just a couple of miles, just for the high and the clarity and staying in shape.

But I do not run anymore, since I blew out both my knees by the time I was 21, or at least that is what I told myself. I kept running for a long time, until maybe I was 30, but each year my foot hit with a depressing and growing deadness and heaviness. The last time I flew down the road was when I was 23 and living the first time around (there were two times) in my little blown up town of Pakrac in Croatia as a grassroots peace volunteer. I used to run down the Road of Death (or Požega Road if you want its real name, which does not sound nearly so edgy, does it?) through wasted villages into the Balkan countryside.

The next year I returned to Croatia, and the heaviness came, and I moved on to swimming and yoga and bike riding and the like. Until this week. Unexpectedly, here in the Swedish forest, after a year of wearing barefoot shoes (that is another blog, but I can only wear barefoot shoes now), after 13 years of Balkan wars, newspaper writing, covering the aftermath 9/11, career wandering and starting a family, the bounce suddenly came back as I walked, slowly, through the forest carrying my journal and picking the occasional blueberry.

So I gave it a test jog through the woods the next morning. Good. A second. Great. A third. Religious.

Maybe my knees are not dead. Maybe on some level it has taken me a long time to get over that first year in Croatia (my seemingly endless and unsatisfying attempts to write about it the clearest example of something deeper going on).

I am still not willing to hit the pavement and run back in Stockholm. But we are returning here to the forest next week. And even if this is just a brief interlude before the return of blown-out knee reality, I can not wait to run.

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