What Breaks Never Heals
How far can you run on broken bones?
8:00 PM along the Hudson, and my feet fall one after the other, hushing against the ground, and my arms hang low at my sides as my father always told me, low enough for my fingers to dust against my shorts. I feel less a body and more a part of night, the darkness around me deep and in the process of ever-deepening, my back toward the bridge, which glows as the city glows ahead, a crown of light against the sky.
I read once that there is a reason a runner feels faster at night. Any runner will tell you about this feeling. That there is something about the night. How it makes you feel smoother, lighter, wispier. I read that it has to do with vision and the brain and the periphery. I read that it has to do with the dark. I read that there are fewer points of reference of use to the eye when gauging speed during the night, less objects visible in the distance, so the eye only uses what is close, what it can pick up through the darkness. If you’ve ever driven and watched some unnamed mountain loom forever in the distance while mileposts along the highway zip by in fractured blurs, you know: things closer appear to move more rapidly toward the eye than things farther off.
The New York City Marathon is a few more long weeks of running away, though running I know will not bring it any closer, only time. But it sits out there in the dark that none of us can perceive, even if we try to, through long daydreams or nights spent falling into visions, asleep in the glow of an open computer. It sits, and waits. It waits through 80 mile weeks, long runs out of the city and through towns where no one knows my name and I am only another hassling blur on the trail. When a friend asks me what I think of on those two-plus-hour runs, I say “nothing.” My friend has coached me to fall asleep while running, so I try. I keep my eyes half-closed and let my brain sit even further closed behind it, as if my legs are another’s legs and the heart that pumps my blood is just another thing beating and humming in the quiet that surrounds me.
I was never great at running. In high school, it took me almost four years to become a somewhat valued member of the team. Later in college, I walked on, just happy to be there, breathing heavy on runs that should’ve been easy, toiling in the back of the pack on long and fast workouts. But there’s something about the sport that captures the mind like some sort of abstract painting hanging in the back wall of a museum, the kind that most people walk past absent-mindedly each day, perhaps looking, perhaps scoffing, as that one kid, early on, and another, later, stand and stare fixedly at the thing in front of them, head-tilted, wondering why it is consuming them.