A Lovely Reunion Born From Tragedy

I looked over at the passenger seat and my heart sank. Empty. They should be there. I drove all the way downtown to make the most of a couple free hours and now it was all for naught. How could I be so careless? Maybe I should just turn around and drive back to my big box in suburbia.

Or maybe, just maybe, I could go for a run without my headphones. Perhaps I could run without a Podcast, audiobook, or playlist filling my airwaves? Somewhere in the ether of memory, I recall a time when I used to run without someone else’s voice accompanying me on on the journey. But that was a different time. A different world. There were no Podcasts and my Walkman was pretty bulky.

Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. And to really walk on the wild side, I even left my phone in the truck. The first mile or so was filled with disappointment. A new Revisionist History podcast has launched the day before and now I needed to find another time to listen. Tragedy.

A key benefit of running the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike trail in downtown, Austin is the multiple opportunities to cut your seven-mile loop short. Cut back across the river at the Pfluger bridge, 1st Street, or Congress Avenue and you can high-tail it back to the comfort of your truck, plug back in, and continue your quest to wow your friends and colleagues at meetings by quoting the latest episode of Radiolab or High Resolution. Such podcast hubris.

Luckily, something kept me from cutting the run short. Maybe it was the novelty of being unplugged and unreachable. Perhaps my ears were able to breathe better. Whatever the reason, the voice I heard about an hour into the run thanked me. The voice was familiar the same way you recognize voices imprinted on the soul during your youth. You can’t place it, but the voice makes sense.

It took me back to runs from my twenties. I was back in Big Bear Lake running the Pacific Crest Trail. I could feel the salty air enjoyed during a quick morning run along the boardwalk in Huntington Beach. Even more than returning to a previous time and place, it was the sound of that voice that made me feel at home. Made me feel more like myself again. I don’t remember much of what it said, and even though I didn’t learn something new from Two Guys on Your Head, I finished that run feeling at peace.

So I’ve stopped outsourcing my headspace to Krista Tippett, Debbie Millman, and Ben Greenfield. They’ve been wonderful companions, but that time on the roads is too important to share. It’s too important because we so rarely combine physical activity with disassociative boredom. That time of productive boredom is why running is a time for creation, not consumption. It’s a time to go wherever that voice takes you.

So it was a lovely reunion and hopefully the beginning of a new affair. I’ll save my podcasts for the gym.

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