Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lighting the Way

There aren’t many days left. After training for months, I’m on the verge of running my first marathon. There are a lot of lessons a person learns travelling over 900 training kilometres at various speeds and in various stages of euphoria and discomfort. One of these lessons is: The lights know.

I first formed this hypothesis after successive (if not successful) routes around a 9 kilometre circle. It’s a route that I learned from my brother who learned it from a co-worker and it’s a route I run when I need to do a longer run in the middle of the week from work over the lunch hour. It’s a pleasant enough tour starting from the front door at the Dockyard gym, exiting out at the Admiral’s Gate, running in front of HMCS Scotian and then cutting left to go behind the Casino and onto the boardwalk. The boardwalk along the waterfront is usually a very nice place to run, zigging and zagging through tourists when the weather’s nice, running almost completely abandoned by the world when the weather is bad. When I’m only running six kilometres, I turn back at the gate that’s just past the NS Power building, what used to be the Electropolis studios to retrace my steps along the waterfront.

But for the longer run, I head off the boardwalk and up Marginal Road, running past the Westin and the train station and the Superstore before connecting with Barrington Street. When Barrington Street swoops to the right and becomes Inglis, that’s where the fun begins. It seems like most of the rest of the run goes up. Up Inglis. Right on Robie and up again (more gradual but still up). Somewhere around Spring Garden the road dips slightly before proceeding up again until you reach the apex by the new hospital. That’s the signal (to me at least) for the start of the end of the run. Down through the Five Corners intersection. Past the Commons, carrying on through the tree covered part of Robie to North, a slight resurrection of elevation up along North for about a block and then all that uphill, saved like goodwill, gets cashed for the dash to the centre gate at Dockyard, a long steep downhill run, go Johnny ,go.

So, one particular week, several weeks ago, I ran this route two days in a row and let me tell you, on that first day everything seemed a struggle. I was vaguely comfortable going through the waterfront, but as the hill commenced at Inglis, so did fatigue. Robie Street has many busy intersections, so thankfully, I found myself against many red lights and was able to pause and catch my breath at several crossroads, waiting for the light to turn, a minor refreshment for a run going badly.

The following day was a breeze.

I glided though the waterfront, skipped up Inglis and charged along Robie, noticing an unusual phenomenon as I hit the intersections: I was always being greeted by a green light.

Very strange! I began to intuit that there was hidden intelligence in the crossing signals, something I noted in later days to a running partner. The lights know when you’re having a bad run and will bless you with a red light when you struggle, offering you that momentary pause. And when you’re feeling great and loathe to stop, you find yourself faced with a preponderance of green lights.

I do not propose an explanation. It is a mystery of the running world.

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