Since September I’ve been running often. During lunches and after work, and anytime I can. I’m down two sizes, feeling stronger, and happy, and there is still a lot more work left to do, but running feels amazing again for the first time in a long time, and I need to take a moment to celebrate my return to it.
I started writing this after a particularly mind-altering run in Forest Park on September 27, 2010, to remind myself why I run on the days I feel tired, or discouraged, or otherwise might not remember. Upon revisiting this post prior to publishing it I was reminded of how I can rarely view or ponder or walk into any woods without simultaneously thinking of these four lines from Frost, from Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening:
The woods are lovely dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I was sitting at work just like every other day. Sitting, sitting, so much sitting still.
On this day I could physically feel the way my body ached to move. The way it needed to sprint, to physically exert itself until every ounce of energy was spent. To erase the anxiety, and the fear, and the doubt, and the tiny stresses of the day compounded into heaps of worry etched across furrowed brows. The way my legs needed to stretch, to reach out for soft dirt and moss and tread quickly, steadily, moving with the rest of me, one unit in forward motion, with a combined goal: To move forward, ever forward.
This time, I listened. I knew what my body needed, what it wanted, and I listened. Simple really. And yet the simplest of occasions are so easily complicated.
I concentrated on my breathing and heard the soft sound of my feet padding cautiously against the soft dirt. Later: The more solid sound of my feet finding traction and moving quicker when bends in the trail were harder. Ferns everywhere, and I could smell recent rain still resting on them, and my heart traveled back to weekends spent hiking with my sister and my dad, the three of us seeking solace underneath a seemingly endless platoon of pine trees, tall and stoic. Happily heavily breathing, I sought to memorize leaves on low-hanging branches perfectly obscuring a bustling city only a few miles below where I catapulted myself down, down, downhill and around a bend in between two solid trunks–trees older than I can ever hope to be–around a small creek barely trickling with water, and up, up, uphill to another bend in the trail where I could again look out onto a trove of trees peppered with bright gold and green hues, a forested blanket hiding everything but this moment, this exact place.
I had to force myself to make it to the trail. I had to fight to hold on to the feeling that my body NEEDED this time, needed this space to stretch and groan and grow. It’s so easy to drive home and sit. To get complacent. To make excuses, however valid. “I’m too tired, too sore, too busy; it’s too dark, too cold, too hot.”
I know them all by heart. I heard every single one of them in my head the moment I decided to run that day.
Too busy listening to my legs telling me they needed to run until they couldn’t carry my weight anymore, I ignored every negative thought seeking to derail my new-found motivation, and the sheer exhilaration I felt when my feet starting propelling me down that trail–as my entire body instantly remembered how to work seamlessly in unison–was one of the most euphoric sensations I’ve ever felt. I was almost laughing as I sprinted as fast as I could, years of muscle memory from countless basketball and track practices once again pulsing through my arms and legs, reminding me my body knows how to do this. It’s always known how to do this.
The simplest of occasions are so easily complicated, when all my body wants to do is something perfectly simple. Something perfectly part of its original design. It wants to move.
*Post title inspired by Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. If you haven’t read it, and you run, or bike, or want to do either, I highly recommend it.