Running and the Soul
I believe that running cleanses the soul. If you feel uncomfortable with the word “soul,” then replace it with any word or words you want: mind, heart, emotional state, moral center, whatever. What I believe is that there is a place in all of us—it doesn’t matter what you call it—that, if cultivated, compels us to live more beautifully. For me, running tills that place and makes me bloom.
Running acts as a form of meditation. When done correctly, it induces perfect concentration, perfect focus. The lose ends of the mind drift away, bit by bit, like the last few clouds in a blue summer sky, leaving only the now.
When I run, I listen to the rhythms of my own body. First, there are the feet, striking whatever surface upon which I am running. Then there are the arms, swishing against whatever fiber I am wearing. Finally, there is the breathing, the essence of it all, in and out, making the subtle music of air on air.
Those rhythms connect my body to the pulse of the world. As I run, all around me are moving things, creatures that dance of their own accord, some that require the whimsical propulsion of the wind, and others that move ever so slowly with the turn of the earth. I see sights both familiar and unfamiliar: red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, foxes, coyote, and once, even, a bear. And of course I must mention the flowers, a multitude of flowers. I witness the seasons change on a daily basis: the daffodils to the peonies to the Queen Anne’s Lace to the bushels of crimson and gold chrysanthemums that grace front porches in autumn.
Then there are the people. Farmers move through fields, folks putter in gardens, women hang laundry on lines, men drive rider mowers in tight ellipses, children careen on their bicycles, and any number of people drive by, going to or coming from someplace important. They all wave at me, and I return the favor. While I am running, I love them all; that place inside me wells up gladly to meet their lives with my own.
Running changes me. It reminds me how wonderful life is, both inside and outside my body. In this world in which people work too hard and are too anxious about the future, we collapse, far too often, in hopeless solipsism. Running, though, opens me back up, petal by petal.
When the day comes in which I can no longer run, when my knees give out, my hips crack, my lower back stiffens beyond repair, I will walk, and then I will crawl, and then I will run in my imagination, because, if I don’t run, my soul will shrivel to nothing.
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