If there’s anything we’ve established thus far on The Daily Shoe, it’s this: I love to love. (See “The Dance”). For one, I love to love shoes (Shocker!) I also love to love running. On any given day of the week, when evening schedules are cleared, no work engagements are pending and no friends are calling, you can rest assured I’m plodding my way through the Highlands and Cherokee or Seneca Parks (occasionally all three.)
Anyone who knows me is aware of this hobby-turned-obsession-turned-way-of-life. And while I’ll rough it out in the summer heat, a cool spring or autumn evening spent in my running shoes on an open road are enough to make my spirits soar and put me in a state of near-ecstasy.
I’ve often tried to explain this love of running to others. Simply running a mile or two isn't adequate, since it takes the second or third mile for your body to find its rhythm and everything is working together in a fluid motion. As soon as you find this rhythm, your strength comes not from your legs or feet, but from your inner-most core. The further you run, the more you can feel your body reaching deep down inside for every ounce of strength it can muster. The end result is the release of the ever-beloved endorphin. All said, running can become a bit of an addiction. (An addiction that just so happens to lend itself to weight loss, improved bone health, and better coordination.)
I was not always this way. For one, I’m not built to be the ideal runner. I inherited my mother’s petite size and my father’s rather stocky build. As a child, my parents let me make my attempt in softball and basketball—both endeavors that I’d rather not remember or discuss. Around my sophomore year of high school I finally figured out that while I couldn’t quite master the art of hand-eye/moving-target coordination, I could maneuver from point A to point B at a fairly quick pace. Through years of running, I’ve managed to overcome the less-than-ideal physical build.
Running is not always a bed of roses. It can, in fact, be very painful. A year and a half ago, I was plagued by a pretty miserable case of plantars fasciitis that shut me down for months; my knees are all but done for; and I have the occasional hip trouble.
In spite of the pain, I have found that finding my own rhythm and tapping into that inner core strength allows my mind to be completely clear of the worries, anxieties and fears that follow me around on a daily basis. It's why I return to the routes I know so well, night after night. Along those paths and roadways, I am free: free to enjoy my favorite music, free to think, free to pray.
In a metaphorical sense, there’s more to running than the physical effort. When you're running, you're headed somewhere, and you have a goal in mind.
In the back of my mind, I have this idea of who I want to be and the direction I want my life to go. I’d imagine it is the same for you too, Reader. At the same time, I’ve never been a very good planner. I don’t exactly have a theory on how to get to this “ideal self,” what to do when I arrive, or what happens after. But when I run, I feel as though I'm getting one step closer.
In recent weeks, I’ve come to a rather startling and delightful realization: I’ve never been happier than I am right now. Is it possible that I could someday attain them? And while I may never achieve my personal idea of perfection (because, that always changes as we go, doesn't it?) this life I am living has every glimmer of what I always dreamed it might be and more.
It's wonderful to be reminded of this, especially on days when I feel confused, stressed and overwhelmed or when I fear that the pace of life has passed me by.
My tennis shoes (my trusted, supportive companions) will always be there waiting by the door. When I do not know what else to do...I'll cling to the thing I know best: an open road, the sound of my feet on the pavement, a sweat on my brow and the understanding that life is moving forward, and I am moving forward with it.
"Out of the silver heat mirage he ran. The sky burned, and under him the paving was a black mirror reflecting sun-fire. Sweat sprayed his skin with each foot strike so that he ran in a hot mist of his own creation. With each slap on the softened asphalt, his soles absorbed heat that rose through his arches and ankles and the stems of his shins. It was a carnival of pain, but he loved each stride because running distilled him to his essence and the heat hastened this distillation." - James Tabor, from "The Runner.”