Walking has become therapeutic for me. Outside of the obvious physical benefits, there are a number of spiritual and psychological advantages. I usually walk early in the morning and the quiet lets me hear all nature has to offer. The light, low on the horizon, creates wonderful long shadows and everything is bathed in a yellow hue. It’s a great time to be with my Creator, have a conversation, clear my head, and prepare for the day. Except for the occasional passing car, the only sounds are the birds and my shoes against the sidewalk. Greetings from other walkers and runners are always welcomed and acknowledged.
This week we’ve been staying with a friend in Carmel, Indiana just north of Indianapolis. Betsy lives close to the Monon Trail, an 18-mile stretch of what used to be the Monon Railroad that has been converted to a paved trail running from just north of downtown Indianapolis to the suburb of Westfield. It is an absolute gem of a project and a popular place for walkers, joggers, runners, rollerbladers, and bicyclists. There have been a number of access points and offshoot trails added over the past few years making it even better.
I’ve been walking the trail every morning. My route has a lot of shade and I’ve encountered a minimum number of folks along the path. It was like a nice drive on an Indiana country road…until today. Today was like being on the interstate in Atlanta at rush hour. My first clue was the guy hurtling toward me on one of those fat tired beach bikes, which sounded similar to a jacked-up four wheel drive with knobby tires. In quick succession there were some serious high school runners who appeared to be training for an event, more cyclists traveling at higher speeds than I had encountered in the previous 5 days, bunches of people with dogs, and a boatload of families with small children being transported in a variety of contrivances. Even though pedestrians have the right-of-way that was a small comfort when bikes whizzed by and clusters of runners brushed my shoulder as I hugged the edge of the pavement.
Rather than let the crowd steal my joy of being outside on a beautiful, cool morning, I decided to focus on observing the different styles used by the runners I encountered. The first one I will call “T-Rex.” This refers not to the size of the runner but how hard they bring their foot down on the path. These folks sound like Shaquille O’Neal running with two empty 50-gallon drums strapped to his feet. Even if you don’t feel the vibrations they create, you can hear them long before they reach you. I refer to the next running style as “The Swimmer.” Swimmers use their arms a lot and it looks like they’re pulling themselves through the atmosphere. The ones I saw tended to take big gulps of air much like someone doing the breaststroke. The “Prototype” is the third running style I noticed. Like many mechanical prototypes, these runners have a number of good things going for them, but they’re not finished products. They kick too high, their stride is too short or too long, or they’re positioning themselves incorrectly. The potential is there, but they need coaching to bring out their effectiveness. Then there’s “The Machine.” Machines are all about smoothness, economy of motion, and effectiveness. They appear to be gliding much of the time and you might not hear them coming until they are right behind you. The highlight of the morning was watching a cluster of machines (a girls cross country team) approach from the opposite direction. Led by their coach and clipping along at a good pace, they were a study in synchrony.
My hopes for a quiet walk were dashed almost immediately after getting on the trail, but changing focus made for a purposeful morning and provided the opportunity to be outside in some truly outstanding weather. If you’re ever in the Indianapolis area, I highly recommend checking out the Monon Trail. If you go on Saturdays, you might want to get there early to avoid the crowds.