Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dreaming of a Warm Summer Morning

An early start is the secret to intense physical activity on a deep south summer day. When I lived in fantasy land I was a very active runner logging 12-15 miles a week for several years running. In the summer I would get up early, normally by 6:00 AM and head out for my morning run. It would be 75 degrees and 75% humidity at 6:30 AM and by 7:30 the temperature would be on the rise; by 9:00 AM only mad dogs and Englishmen would venture out.

My favorite place to run was on Park Avenue in Winter Park. Winter Park is the old money neighborhood in the Orlando area, and Park Avenue is the social and shopping center of the old money. It was (and still is) a delightful place to dream of what life would be like if your grandfather had struck it rich in railroads, banking, lumber or garden seeds (yes garden seeds, one of the old money families made a fortune selling garden seeds and went on to amass the worlds largest collection of art work by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and much of the real estate along the Avenue.) I spent seven wonderful years finishing a four year degree at Rollins College at the south end of Park Avenue and I have very fond memories of my time there.
Early in the morning before traffic picked up it would take 15 minutes to drive from home the Avenue. I would park on the Avenue across from city hall. My course took me north up Park Avenue, past the upscale shops. I could smell the pine trees, palm trees and old money. I’d go north past the golf course, go east toward the lake, slow for a moment to see if I could spot the bald eagle nesting in a tall long leaf pine in Malcolm’s front yard and then swing back south along Lake Osceola on Interlachen Avenue to Lyman Avenue then go west across Park Avenue, past city hall and on over to New York Avenue and north again to the golf course and cut across and come back down Park Avenue. The total course was about 3.3 miles and would take me 24-28 minutes. For years I kept careful notes about every run on that course.

By the time I finished I would be drenched in sweat, literally dripping wet. I would cool down by wandering up the Avenue for a couple of blocks, then come back, cover the seat in my car with a beach towel and head off the gym for the rest of my workout. Running in that weather set my mind free, I did not have to work to warm up or stay warm. Moving actually cooled me down as I slid through the air. My mind would wonder during those runs. No one could disturb me; no phone calls, or pagers, or conversations. It was just me, the sounds of the wind in the trees and the early morning songs birds. Running is a very solitary pursuit, just me moving through the wonders of a warm southern morning.

I ran this course year around for several years, but early summer mornings were always the best. The warm start made movement easy, breaking a sweat within a couple of blocks. I would inhale deeply air sweetened by millions of sub tropical flowers. I would cherish the solitude before the drone of the air conditioners started to drown out the sound of the wind in the trees, my being moving swiftly through the warm morning air. I can relax by just recalling those wonderful mornings.