I am not a good runner, but running has been good to me.
The trick is to propel my feet forward faster than my mind, at its most anxious, dares spin. Kicking up dirt I can gather the words and worries that had, until then, made sleep troublesome, and cast them off gently. The more breathless I become, the easier it is to breathe and simply be. New words form – the beginnings of stories I’ve been searching for in vain. A handful of passages to be collected here, at the top of this hill. The conclusion waits patiently there, at the end of the last sprint.
I suspect that it is not the healthiest habit. Several weeks into training and the aches become more pronounced. I’ll take off a bloody pair of socks, patch another blister, and curse my shins. My body responds so poorly that I limit myself to a few months of running a year; my shoes will grow dusty in the back of the closet once this race is over.
I am aware that I may pay for this mileage later, and also certain that the pleasure of the act makes the trade-off worth it. They say life is too short, and this truth presents us with a choice between the pursuits that might extend our years, and those that cause us to ask for extra time.
If instinct tells me that words rest in the shadows of fleeting twilight, I will choose to write instead of sleep. If my heart asks to return to the last time we spoke, I will play the song too loud again. If the days passed blissfully next to sand and surf are winding to a close, I will paddle into another wave, ignoring the throbbing pain in my maddeningly sensitive ears.
I make these choices knowing that subtle marks are likely to remain long after the final wave, or verse subsides. Enough precious early morning runs, and the whisper of sore muscles will gradually increase in volume until I’m forced to rest, at least until the next spring thaw arrives. On rare occasions the consequences of happiness are sketched more immediately. I will spend several hours laughing next to him and find the grooves on my skin deepened more by a single evening than what feels like an eternity of responsible days spent in quieter company. I will be cautious with this life, yes, and careful too, but not so much that I miss the chance to inhabit moments that expand beyond the confines of minutes or years.
Running is not good for me, but there is no doubt that it does me good. My body braces to absorb the impact of each step, until soles are left as battered as the soul is soothed.