Confession: I haven’t been running as often as I would have liked since the first of the year. I have a full quiver of the usual excuses…too tired, not enough time, it’s raining, it’s snowing…the usual suspects. That said, in fits and starts I have been moving forward, quite literally one step at a time.
It would help if all the enjoyable runs beginning at my house didn’t start with an uphill. A steep uphill at that. It makes perfect sense though–generally speaking the higher we rise the more beauty avails itself to us which is likely why we often seek the tops of mountains. So yesterday, having no intention of climbing to the top of the mountain, I laced up my shoes and put one foot in front of the other headed on an up grade.
All my runs seem to begin the same way–with me questioning why I do this. It can seem like “vanity and striving after the wind”. After all, no matter how well I take care of myself I am still gonna wind up at the same place (yes, I’m talking about physical mortality but trying to avoid the “D” word). Before my body begins to find a groove, running is a real grind. My body and my mind always seem to argue for a bit but I am never quite sure which one is arguing to quit and grab a bowl of chips. A beautiful thing though…my feet always seem to keep moving.
Yesterday, I did things a bit differently. I climbed the initial grade at a fast walk. As the ground began to level, I jogged a short interval, walked again, then ran a short distance at not quite a sprint. I found myself falling into a pattern of walking and running. And noticing. Not thinking but seeing, hearing, and feeling. Seeing the snowflakes falling softly. Hearing the happy and gentle rumble of the little stream that parallels the road. Noting each breath and the pressure of my feet on the ground. Feeling the life inside me expanding to every part of my body like the quickening of the cosmic life every spring.
Almost before I realized, I was at the top of the nearly two-mile climb from my house, and it was lovely. Every breath drew in the stillness of the woods and the quiet of the lightly falling snow. Every footfall resonated life and the sheer energy of it. I broke my pattern of intervals and just let my body glide back down the hill toward home. I’m not sure I have ever been more fully aware in life. I saw myself connected to all things.
I’m sure you are thinking it was just the endorphins kicking in, and I agree to some extent. I love how our bodies can treat themselves to a high. But it was more than a high. It was meditative. It was engagement not just with the run, but with everything around it and required for it–body, mind, earth, air, water, and the fire at the foundation of life. And I remembered something so fundamental it almost seems primeval. I don’t really run for fitness or to look a certain way. I run because I’m alive, and running is an expression of the the primitive joy of it all. In running, I’m not a grown-up with all the artificially cultivated responsibilities of our so-called civilization. No–in running I’m a child on a playground, a fawn in the woods, a stream tumbling down a mountain. Good things to be, every one.