Rediscovering the Beauty of Slowing Down

After reluctantly hanging up her running shoes, a mom-to-be finds unexpected kinship with strangers.

Illustration by Sandra Dionisi

As time slowed to a crawl last spring in the final month of my pregnancy, my runner’s pace gave way to that of the slowpokes I’d once resented. I made my way around Orange Reservoir in the South Mountain Recreation Complex at a pained amble, fond memories of past 5Ks and marathons swirling around me. I recalled one race at that very reservoir. At that time, I had sailed around the reservoir seemingly weightless and free, October sunshine reflecting on the water, crisp autumn air in my face. Now, years later, it was very warm, I was very large, and my pace was very slow.

Yet my hindered speed (thanks to the 8-pound bowling ball in my abdomen), enabled me to view the world a bit more clearly.

Once, I would dash past the birdwatchers pointing eagerly at the finches in the trees above the playground. Now I caught myself glancing upward as well, hoping to catch a glimpse of yellow wings and maybe a nest with eggs, mirroring my own condition. 

The stretch of the reservoir loop where I’d once been annoyed by the obnoxious whistle of the zoo train in the adjacent woods now suggested my future: a harried parent with chubby-cheeked child in tow.

Most of all, I had time to take in the human side of the reservoir that I’d previously missed at my runner’s pace.

As I trailed a woman taking painful, halting steps in a knee brace, I found myself touched and even inspired that someone with an injury—perhaps chronic—was doing her best to make it around the 1.7-mile loop that had once seemed like small change to this former marathoner. Stopping at a bench for a much-needed break, I was heartened to see an older gentleman sharing the spot with his dog, carefully dribbling drops from his own water bottle for his graying pal.

Pausing again at a large patio, I listened intently to two middle-aged women discussing the antidepressant qualities of cashew nuts, certain I’d misheard some detail; but no, she was talking about the nut. 

Everywhere I looked, people of different ethnicities and ages were taking the same route, completing the same circle, following in each other’s steps, exchanging nods and smiles. All these tiny human interactions transcended any perceived barriers of language or customs. We were treading the same circuit around the reservoir, some with dogs or kids, one footfall at a time. In another life, I’d passed all these people without a thought. Now I felt a kinship with them, all of us walking together.

Later in the summer, I returned with a stroller—and my new walking companion—taking in all the tiny curiosities and intriguing sights along the water’s edge. We walk the reservoir together now, slowly.

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