With weird and wacky 2016 in the rear view mirror and 2017 bursting in with a big bag of unknowns, there came the realization that the year just ended marked 40 years in which I have run, jogged, walked, and biked enough miles to have circumnavigated planet Earth, with a good start on a second lap.
Little did I imagine that a long-ago New Year’s resolution to begin regular exercise would last for decades — sloth and indolence being far more agreeable. In fact, after the first week of attempting to run around the high school track, I was ready to toss in the proverbial towel. But it slowly got better; in a few months, I could actually do five miles a day (and I never seemed to muster any ambition to exceed that).
After a while, it became, I suppose, something of an addiction. Barring snow or sub-freezing temperatures, or downpours, I was out most mornings, pre-daylight, reveling in the stillness and quiet of a world not yet awake, the occasional scents of coffee brewing and bacon frying, of magnolia blossoms and gardenias in the spring, of deer ambling and owls hooting. And there was the added benefit of seeing a lot of beautiful sunrises that most people missed.
Years later, knees protesting from the thousands of miles of pounding, I stopped running and switched to jogging. More years later, I began walking or biking. Now, my 4 a.m. walks through the neighborhood take a smidgen over an hour for 3.2 miles; if biking, I manage 8.1 miles in the same amount of time. It’s rare I encounter anyone except newspaper delivery people — and deer, coyotes, possums, raccoons, the occasional skunk, a veritable Wild Kingdom right here in town.
Among the memories of 40 years of self-propulsion was an early morning walk around the pyramids of Giza in the Egyptian desert.—Sean Gallup/Getty Images
During my four decades of self-propulsion, I’ve run/jogged/walked in every state except North Dakota (never had occasion to go there), including Alaska and all the Hawaiian islands (where, in the inky blackness of Pacific nights, the moon and stars pop with a clarity and brightness never seen here in the South), all the Canadian provinces, around the Great Pyramid of Giza and the mysterious Sphinx in the Egyptian desert, down the magnificent boulevards of Buenos Aires, beside the blue Mediterranean in a 14th century village in Spain, through the splendidly scenic hills of Tuscany in Italy, flower-bedecked paths in ever-so-green England and a fairy tale of lights in beautiful Paris, up and down the cobbled streets of Lisbon’s hills, through the hushed forests of Germany — so many fascinating places, on every continent but Australia (never managed to get down there).
I haven’t the foggiest notion that all those exercise miles have added one extra step or one extra minute to my life. But to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, it’s not so much the destination that matters, but enjoying the journey…