The Streets (Were) Full of Strangers

California I’m coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I’m coming home

 – Joni Mitchell, California

I ran the Big Sur International Marathon last weekend.  This was significant for a whole lot of reasons, all of which require me to tell the back story of Daily Angst, and my once-upon-a-time life on California’s central coast, and how I got into Marathons in the first place.

I’ve been writing Daily Angst for ten years in October, and started writing it on this site five years ago this year. At the time I started writing here, I was still in private practice and working very closely with a client in Carmel, California helping to close down a business.

At the time, I was young, new divorcee who literally did not know a single divorced person.  I think my parents had one, chronically divorced manchild friend who had a collection of wives, and a collection of Porsches, but that was basically my only example of How To Do This.

So there I was.  In Carmel.  Alone, but for a rag-tag bunch of executives from the client, and a marathon training plan for my first marathon, and the occasional middle-of-the-night phone call to Asia or from my insane then-boss.

I had started running marathons in the first place for two reasons: 1) because I had made a list in the end of the nineties of fifty things I had wanted to do in ten years, and I was coming to the end of the time limit in which to do them, and the only thing that remained from that list was “run the NYC Marathon,” and 2) my ex-husband used to say he was “allergic to exercise” and truly resented when I would go out and run — in fact, I recently found some old writing where I recounted that he’d held off proposing to me until I’d agreed not to train for a marathon — ever.

(I don’t think I’ve ever told people that before.)

Running, in my mind, was freedom.  Probably the first self-care type-thing I did upon leaving Andrew was investigate options on how to obtain a marathon entry.

So my  life in Carmel was a lot of late-night whisky, and chocolate cake, and running on country and coastal roads.  And I survived; I made friends; I thrived.  Then I went home and began again.

And life went on.

Late last year, when someone tweeted the date of registration for the Big Sur Marathon, I knew that I would sign up.  My marathon days are getting small — partly because of motivation; partly because of my health.  I have been running injured for a few races now — I tore the cartilage in my hip about a year ago, and it’s not improving.  I’ll probably have to have surgery and the recovery is long and painful.

So it seemed right, and good, that Big Sur might be my final marathon — at least for a while.  It also made sense to end things where I began things, and the Big Sur marathon begins in Big Sur and runs north up Highway 1 into Carmel.

eee and I flew to San Francisco last Friday, and drove down to Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur last Saturday to pick up our race numbers then spend the day relaxing on the coast.  We arrived at the hotel I had once shuttered, which had re-opened in the late Autumn.

This is where I ran away to when I got divorced, I laughed.

It’s a nice place to get divorced, she said approvingly.

It was a strange and familiar homecoming.

Here is the pool, and here is the parking lot, and here are the pathways I walked with friends.  Here is the fireplace we sat by that one night after that dinner with Maria Shriver, before we knew her own marriage was hanging by a thread, and where that weird lounge singer and his lawyer friend offered to fly us down to Esalen post-haste.

Don’t you remember?

It was so much tension, and so romantic, and such a wild adventure!

But there was no time to reminisce — we had to grab dinner then go to bed, since the buses left for the start at 3am.

So.  I ran.  It had been nearly five years, but I was there to run.

big sur marathon 2

One of the great thrills of the Big Sur marathon is crossing the Bixby Bridge, because not only are the sweeping views simply to die for, but there is also a tuxedo’d man seated at a grand piano on the bridge’s northern side.  People remember what he was playing when they crossed.

When I ran my first marathon — NYC 2009 — by some magic, when I crossed the 59th Street Bridge, my iPod queued up the 59th Street Bridge Song.

And when I ran Big Sur, as I crossed the Bixby Bridge, the piano player struck up Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Sometimes, things just work.

The run was hard, and the run was long and slow, but I finished it.  I met old friends at the end.  I went back to the places I had been before and I made it through them with new and wonderful memories; possibilities.

What I am saying is, going back to the places that hurt is not always equal to “being stuck” or “dwelling in the past.”  Sometimes, it’s the most glorious and triumphant way of moving forward.

1 Comment

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  1. I don’t believe you have shared the fact that your ex didn’t want you to run and his saying it rather shocked me. Talk about non-supportive. Writing on the wall so to speak.

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