The East Bay Bike Path is a well-beaten trail that hugs, well, the Easy Bay, winding from small Rhode Island town to small Rhode Island town from Providence up to Bristol. There aren’t many people on it, particularly this early in the morning, and the only ones here are the athletic and fit Nike-fitness-model-types that are infinitely more hardcore than me. I’d be sweaty and overheated this far into the run if it wasn’t so chilly. By nature, the trail is lonely and quiet.
I messed up the quiet by yelling at a bicyclist who almost ran over me; I was running it, not biking it, but the sense of superiority and invincibility I’d gotten as a College Hill pedestrian clung to me even when I was off campus. It had nearly gotten me killed when I brought it back home to California.
The bicyclist kept going. I flipped her off. I was unusually aggressive because I was tired and winded and not really a runner.
That being said, jogging has given me a new way to explore Providence. At the end of my sophomore year, I noticed just how easy it was to get stuck on the Hill. We’re very much in a bubble—the river around the Hill like a moat—and as I flew homewards on May 20th, it occurred to me that I knew very little of the Providence visible through the airplane window.
Running is different than driving by the mall, or through Barrington, or by the ocean. It’s more intimate, for me; I had to briefly plan my route on Apple Maps, and still managed to get lost at least three times because I was unable to keep track of where I was during the run. I had to breathe in the same air that the ocean was breathing in. And as a devout not-a-runner, I like to think I nearly died on all of those runs. Again, adds a sense of intimacy. “Yes,” I can tell my grandchildren, “I nearly died on that curve of the Bike Path into Bristol because I was listening to my music too loud to hear the bicycle bells. Also, I saw my entire life flash before my eyes on that corner of Blackstone Park because I got really, really, really tired.”
I’ll always be a not-a-runner, I think, but I do appreciate how it has given me the tools to explore Providence and its surrounding towns a little more closely than before. I doubt that I’ll recognize them from a plane window, but I will remember the colors of the red-gold trees on an autumn day on the Bike Path, and the bicyclist who cursed at me in a sharp New England accent, and the sound of my feet wearily drumming the grass, or the sidewalks, or the dirt, all over this place that is my home for four years. You sort of get a sense of how coffee smells differently in the morning air specific to every town you jog by, unique to it as its name is. Every street holds its own quirks.
I write in the past tense of course because that particular run was freaking exhausting and WILL NOT BE HAPPENING AGAIN, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Edited by Rachel Lee
Photographs by Jack Hegarty