I joined the cross-country team in my sophomore year, and I’ve been on the go ever since. The stresses that mount in my heart during the day melt away as soon as I begin to stretch my legs. By the time I’m halfway done running, I have long since forgotten my troubles, and given up my trite worries. My mind works at its best when my body is fatigued, aching and starving for oxygen. It’s free to wander and dream and hope, because no one will distract a runner. No one will stop a runner to scold them or make meaningless conversation with them. As long as I keep throwing one foot in front of the other, as long as I keep breathing, no one will touch me.
Last year a close friend and I ran together for the first time. We’ve been friends for many years, but never shared good hard miles on our feet before. His shoes were new, untouched and untortured. The ones I wore were dirt, grimy, battle-hardened by the pounding of miles and miles of abuse, but it didn’t matter.
At first, we tried (in vain) to fill the silence with chatter. Soon though, the clapping of our feet overcame our voices, and our lack of breath overcame the desire to talk, the tops of my thighs and the backs of my calves began to burn with pain, as they have always done. In that moment, I could be sure, without him having to say, that my friend’s own pain mirrored mine. When he went faster, so did I. When he turned to run a hill, I did too, without question or doubt. We fed off of one another’s will power, because in each other we found it in abundance.
I believe in running because you can say everything you need to with a gasp for breath. Because every song in your ipod suddenly becomes about you. Anyone can do it. For the time when I run, it’s the only thing in the world that matters to me, and I like a world that’s that simple.
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