It’s early but all the regulars are out there. My morning running ritual takes me down the Lakewalk day after day. There I enter my world of the familiar. I know I should vary my routine, and I do work in some hills or head up the shore periodically. But my feet just naturally lead me to the Lakewalk.
The route is always the same, but the experience never is. On the grim, cloudy and windy days, I nod to my fellow runners as we pass. We exchange knowing glances, acknowledging the brutal headwind, the chill of the air. We share the same rugged determination. We are out there, no matter what.
When the sun shines and the lake sparkles, our faces reflect the joy of our surroundings. Our “good morning” exchanges ring out merrily. Those are the days when the Aerial Bridge beckons irresistibly, drawing me further down the Lakewalk to its terminus in Canal Park. Ten miles turn into 13. But it’s worth it.
My trusty companions on the Lakewalk punctuate the miles yet loosen my brain from focusing on the rigors of my run. Cyclists pass on their way to work, warning me with the sound of their tires or a cheery ring of a bell. Dog walkers are always good for a “hello” and seem to have only beautiful and well mannered pooches on the end of their leashes. Fellow runners whiz by in both directions, but usually with a wave of encouragement.
And then there’s Arley. A fixture on the Lakewalk, his presence brightens anyone’s journey. I first see him walking, coffee cup in hand striding purposefully at an early hour. Next, he passes me on his bike, destined for the end of Park Point and back. White hair flying out from under his cap, always with a chipper greeting for me. At times he accompanies me on his bike, spinning away the miles with conversation as I run. When the snow flies, I can count on his having cleared the portion of the Lakewalk adjacent to his house.
It was the Lakewalk that introduced me to a kindred spirit and running friend, Arlene. Perched on opposite sides of an ice encrusted street, we traded encouragement as we approached. Our steps slowed to a walk, one greeting led to another and soon we were trading phone numbers to meet up for our next run. Where else might I meet another passionate running enthusiast and heart-felt friend? Barely a day goes by that does not find one or the other or both of us treading the Lakewalk.
Admittedly not all Lakewalk encounters are friendly. Passing through the wooded area just past East High recently, a dark form materialized just ahead. A tall figure wedged between the fence and a tree turned out to be an upright bear, attempting to scale the fence with his hind claws. I’m guessing it was the inhabitant of the 36th Avenue culvert, having wandered away from his den. Passing in a hurry, a quick glace back led me to believe he was perched atop the fence. I wished I had a camera with me, but perhaps it was better that I didn’t linger.
It was very thoughtful of the City to extend the Lakewalk to our neighborhood just as we moved in. And the subsequent addition of the tunnel under the highway was equally welcome. Every morning is a good morning on the Lakewalk.