Running In Hyde Park
When I can’t sleep, I run. Hyde Park in the spring is an eerie mixture of birth and something haunted. It’s almost on the nose, the amount of life that emerges from a Hyde Park spring; the ducklings at Botany Pond, the blossoms, the extreme greenness of everything around you. Haunting the neighborhood is the mist, the grey streets, and ivy-covered buildings, the chill that doesn’t go away until late June. Especially at midnight, running down Woodlawn towards campus when the streets are empty and long, what lies in front of you obscured by all that mist, everything feels spooky. Still, you can’t get away from the scent of flowers blooming from every street corner and garden.
I started running in high school because it seemed like the most effective way to handle my anger. I’ve always been angry at someone or something but being away at college placated my anger. College was lonely and foreign, but also a wonderful adventure. I wanted to be in New York, and I was in New York, learning how to smoke cigarettes in the park, getting drunk on picnic blankets in front of the library, crying alone in my dorm room, walking to the grocery at 1 am, high out of my mind singing and laughing with my friends. I was angry and lonely and sad, but I was too busy learning and growing and surrounding myself with friends and adventures to remember those feelings.
Returning home reminded me that I am angry at my body. I don’t know how to describe this anger fully except as a deep hatred, the sort of hatred that makes me want to slit my throat and claw the skin away until I don’t exist anymore. Returning home reminded me of the classic anger at my parents and another, new, anger at deaths. Looming around all the verdance of Hyde Park springtime is the hospital and a reminder that the reason I am home is because a pandemic has arrived, people are dying.
It’s strange to return to the place you grew up in a time of death. I returned home in the winter after a fellow student at Barnard died. I took returning home for granted, but in the winter, I realized that nothing, especially returning home, can be taken for granted.
Twenty is the age that death became real to me. In December, I realized that the death of a peer was no longer a fluke but, instead, an occurrence that would become more and more common as life progresses.
I run at night because to hate oneself during a time of such death seems petty. What do you do with such hatred and the pettiness of it as death becomes more present in your life? I don’t have an answer, I run. My bedroom reminds me of unexecuted suicides and the night I got so sick, I could barely move.
Running reminds me that I am very much alive. When I run, I become suddenly grateful for the ability to breathe. I started running in Hyde Park at 13 gasping for breath, and now, as I pass the sprinklers going tik tik tik on the groomed lawns, I remind myself to breathe in in in, and out. My heart used to race, now it stays steady. My legs ache, the sweat starts coming, and then it comes more and more, and it all hurts. Somehow, as it all hurts, everything goes, everything works, my body knows what it’s doing, it’s not easy, but it works.
My body could be a tragedy, but it is not. My body is a strong, powerful mass that carries me five miles without stopping. My body runs through the Hyde Park spring, those eerie Hyde Park nights, the vibrant Hyde Park afternoons. It goes and goes, and I love it for its ability to do so. When I run, I never wish that my body will stop, disappear, cease to exist.
I don’t think there are happy endings right now. There are only those moments that occur while running beneath the hazy Friday sun in Nichols Park. Through the murky golden light and floating dandelion seeds are friends sitting in circles laughing, toddlers stumbling over fat legs across the lawn, tennis games being played, middle schoolers taking photos of one another. These gatherings seem socially irresponsible, and yet, it is refreshing to see them, to run through these moments in which life continues.
And then there are the nights alone on the quad after it has rained. The spring air mixed with sweat makes me cold. The lights from the hospital light the back of the buildings surrounding the grass. Everything is still. I hear myself panting. I hear a car spraying water along the curb, an airplane. If there are still airplanes, we are alright. An ambulance. I get up, I run.