I have a watch. Before I head out on a run, I set a timer on it. My watch beeps when I get halfway through my run, and I turn around, and start ambling my way home.
Last week, I tried something else. When that halfway beep went off, I didn’t turn back: I kept running, only turning around when my timer hit zero. This takes a lot longer to get home, but I’m always, always glad for a few extra minutes away from my desk, for a few minutes away from the news, for getting lost in my own town.
It’s not always pleasant, mind. Heck, I got caught in a cold, hard rain during one of those long, aimless runs. I’d thought about turning back, but pressed on anyway, occasionally glaring at the gray clouds overhead.
I came to a busy intersection, and the light was against me. While I waited for a chance to cross, shivering all the while, I watched cars blur past me. Pedestrians walked over a bridge toward where I stood, some of them sharing umbrellas, some of them holding books over their heads for a little shelter from the rain, all of them with quiet, cold, downturned faces.
The light changed, and I ran on. I stepped in a puddle, and I ran on. I shook my head to clear out visions of the news, nearly tripping as I did, but I ran on. I took circuitous, rambling routes, exploring hills I’d never climbed, running down side streets I’d never seen. I ran on.
My watch finally hits zero, and an alarm rings as I crest my final hill. I took a moment to watch some remarkable clouds hang low over the city, the sun valiantly, weakly trying to break through the gray. After a few minutes, I ducked into a neighborhood café for a cup of coffee. I ordered, paid, and walked back outside, clutching the warm cup like a tiny ward against the clipped autumn air. I stood there for a minute, then started my walk home.