I live about two miles from Fort Tryon Park, which means that -- depending on which way I go -- I either get there after two miles or eleven. In either case, it's a relief. Running down into the center of the park is to enter a state of reflection that I find increasingly difficult to attain anywhere else. So much of life in the city is spent in a demoralizing crush of traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) and security measures. Getting anywhere is a tedious ordeal, which makes the occasional arrival at a place like this park seem all the more miraculous. Is it necessary to suffer to appreciate the better things the world has to offer? I hope not, but I do know that I'm again excited about running lately, which offers much at both ends of the spectrum. (Welcome to my running blog: you've been warned.)In the abstract -- when you're not doing it -- running seems mostly dreadworthy. It takes a lot of time, it makes your legs hurt even when you're relatively injury-free, and it demonstrates in crushingly empirical terms the inescapable effects of aging. You get older and you get slower: sad! But if you can make yourself put on the shoes and force yourself out the door (even if it's raining), and you can do it for a few weeks or months or however long it takes so that you can go out and "pound" eight or ten miles, there's nothing quite like it. And by "pound," I mean running fast enough so that you think you're going to die if you don't slow down, but at the same time you feel incapable of slowing down, which is the paradox of running (and maybe life). (For me this used to mean six-minute miles, but now it's closer to seven: the pace is completely subjective to what I'm describing, however.) The pain in not an injury-level pain but a constant soreness or fatigue that nevertheless for a few miles retreats, almost like a tide, as your legs keep turning over, hitting the ground hard and pushing you forward. Which -- if you can get to this point -- is how you know you're in good physical shape. I'm not sure I'm quite there yet, but I'm closer than I've been in a long time, which I'm happy about. And now that I'm older, I'm more interested in the mental process that accompanies this kind of physical training. Let me be the ten billionth person to point out that, as life goes on, time seems to accelerate. We become habitual by force and desire; days evaporate along with weeks and months and the passage of seasons (both weather and television). But there are things we can do to step outside of this constant churn: in my case, one is opera, which never feels like it's rushing by, but (assuming it's a reasonably good show, and I've been blessed in this regard) doesn't feel boring, like sitting through a three-hour training session at work or watching an episode of some overrated show on Netflix like Stranger Things or Jessica Jones or House of Cards or Sense8 or Bloodlines or Goliath or -- especially -- the new season of Black Mirror, when after it's done you're like "omg I will never get that hour of my life back again :( " Stephen once had a friend who gave us t-shirts that said: "Life is short, opera is long," which I didn't really understand until recently. For me, the same could be said about running. It gives me access to a world without FB or politics or homophobia, a place where my thoughts feel somehow sharp-edged and syrupy at the same time. A place where nothing gets done but anything seems feasible. A place where you are completely alone but -- as soon as you reach the park -- you feel "connected" to everything: the flowers, the glowing trees, the mist. I find it shocking to think that I've been running for more than forty years. Running is my oldest friend. Seriously, how is the passage of time even possible? Fortunately (for me), to run is know there are a few times in life when it's not.