MONTREAL – On rare mornings, I wake up and think: A run would kill me. I either had a little too much beer, or pulled an all-nighter, or felt horribly sick. Sometimes when I made the decision to go anyway, I not only survived, but ended up feeling somewhat cleansed.
And sometimes I felt worse. Sometimes, the run was deadly. I can remember on a few times I ran, showered, and crawled back in bed.
On a recent morning in Montreal I woke at 5:30 a.m., eyes blinking, thinking maybe I should just pass on the run. I simply had too much to eat the night before.
At a Chinese restaurant, one friend ordered for a group of us. Jellyfish and duck tongue. Shark fin soup. Filet mignon with pea pods. Peking duck. Vegetables with shrimp and octopus.
The food was delicious. It was one of the best meals of my life. And it was so much more than I ever eat. I felt so full.
At 5:30 a.m., I still felt full. It was as if I had just finished the dinner.
Still, I rolled out of bed. I hadn’t run in Montreal for five or six years, and so I got myself to the hotel lobby. I asked a clerk for a route, and he gave me a small map and recommended that I run past the old city and go along the St. Lawrence River, along the city’s Vieux Port, or old port, which was first used by French fur traders in the early 17th century. “It’s a great way to see the sun rise,” he said.
When I stepped outside, his optimism washed away: Rain was coming down in sheets. It felt like 50 degrees. I would have shivered if I wasn’t so full.
I stepped out and put one foot in front of the other. Luckily, the first few blocks were downhill, and I tried to bend at the waist and lean forward. I thought if anyone saw me (and it seemed I had Montreal to myself), they would think, “That guy looks full.” Or, perhaps, rough.
I kept moving. I passed steak house after steak house, restaurants with pig drawings on signs (what is it about this city that makes it so in love with meat?), and cafes with breads and pastries. Ugh. But the shops ended by the St. Lawrence. In the rain, the boardwalk almost shone. The river opened wide and I ran along by myself, the only sound the rain and my footfalls. I turned back at the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
I felt full no more. I felt like myself. The pleasures of running in an empty city, by a broad river, and then along the narrow Rue de Notre Dame and its magnificent square with the glowing Notre Dame Basilica, took over. I forgot about everything for some moments. Montreal had given me a great meal and then a morning that allowed me to run it off.