Oprah said that running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it. But it is also the greatest metaphor because you are always constantly moving towards something, or away from something, just as in running. You always run to, or from, something, even if you do not realize it. When we start, we are all afraid of what lay ahead, but when we reach the end we wish we could do it all over again.
I run because it is what I do when something is eating at me.
I began to run because I could not stop moving. I am like a shark, if I stop moving, thinking, doing, I die. My thoughts consume my mind and soon I am submerging myself in thoughts and the thoughts of thoughts. I sit idle and let the details shred through me and slice at me. When I first stopped running I slipped into a very dark place where I simply did not exist. I was alive, yes, but I was not living.
I was doing.
Now, I run because it is an escape. My feet hit the ground and I never know how the run will go.
Maybe I will run for seven miles, maybe ten miles.
Or maybe only a single mile.
I run because at some point in the run you realize what you are thinking. It is hard to have so many thoughts on your mind and run at the same time. Your eyes flash from car to car as they pass and then again to the road ahead. Maybe you glance down at your feet and watch them pace in front of you. If you run with music then music fills your ears and helps to drowned out the many sounds that surround you. With each step a thought leaves your head and eventually you begin to realize the burning pain in your thighs and calves. In time it is just that single thought and the pain. The pain, eventually, subsides because you only wish to delve into the world of that single thought.
It becomes your mantra.
You lose yourself in the process and you soon realize that your body is just doing. There is no thought, just step after step after step.
When you run, it is hard to feel sorry for yourself.
When you run, it is hard to feel anything.
I await that rush endorphins to be released from my spine and spread through my blood stream. My cardio is no longer jacked up, and neither is my breathing. My legs feel like they were brand new. I await that runners high. I wait for that feeling when I am in complete bliss and I can just run without fear of pain in my chest, heart, back, or legs. I entertain the thought of running forever because in that single moment I am OK. There is nothing on my mind and nothing weighing heavy on my thoughts. It is my nirvana, my place of solace and my place of equilibrium. But when I established that moment as my place of equilibrium I presented myself a problem: I cannot run forever.
A lesson in life is that you cannot run forever: physically and metaphorically.
We are simply not built to.
When we run, we run to, or from, something.
And when we run, we run to, or from, something.
It is the physical act of trying to distance ourselves.
It is the mental act of trying to find a place where the only thing that matters is what lays right in front of you. Whether it is a road, a gravel path, or the muddy trail that runs adjacent to a river, that single inch in front of you is all that matters.
Running teaches us that we take many paths on our journey.
One day we take one path, and the next we try another. Each path presents us with a new opportunity to see things, or a new challenge. The road may be smooth, but long, and it tests our persistence. Or the road may be rough and winding to test our threshold and strength. The road itself is just as important as the act of running. If we run fast through the trail by the river, we miss the beauty that lay all around us, but we reach the end. If we run slow down the empty road, we take in the minor details, but take a bit longer to reach where we desire to be.
It is the epitome of life.
We must find our path by trying many paths.
We must find our ideal pace by trying many different speeds.
We must find the music to accompany us by having different songs push us.
We must find the right way to prepare, and the right way to rest.
We must find the perfect way to start.
And we must find the perfect way to finish.
No one has ever drowned in sweat, nor will anyone ever.
I run, not because I want to race, but to find out what I can do. What I can endure and what I can tolerate.
How much pain can I handle before I cannot run anymore?
How far can I push myself before my legs begin to stress and develop slight fractures.?
How much weight can I carry with me on these runs?
How quickly can I liquidate the thoughts on my mind and release myself to the solace that is the trail that lay in front of me?
Each run, itself, is a metaphor for life.
But it is not until I am running that I realize and can fully live that metaphor.
That metaphor of life: to only deal with what lay in front of you.
To take it one step at a time.
To visualize what it will look like at the end, and never forget where you came from, but to know, that somewhere out there, there is a finish line.
And when you reach that finish line you will be able to rest; that you will be able to stop.
At that finish line you will be able to look back and say “I did it” and remember each step along the way.
Where we can remember what the fear felt like when we took our first step.
Where we can remember what it felt like to explore a new trail on an impulse.
Where we can remember what it felt like to have those endorphins release and feel bliss.
Where we can remember the pain.
Where we can remember how foolish we felt for never wanting to start.
Where we can remember how great it felt to finally reach the end.