When you go for long runs, moments become monumental.
After a while, you finally hit that temperature when the pores on the crown of your head open like infants’ eyes, oozing the byproduct of your stamping feet’s toil. Their opening is the moment you desire from the time you take your first stride. Hammering the balls of your feet into the earth makes your mind go blank, the way it does at the moment of climax. It is then only you and the atmosphere. This is an experience you can never will yourself to share with another. In the thrill of physical ecstasy, you are barely aware that you are donating the excess of your body into space. You are sweating your vanity into the wind. You strap into a chemical high that will let you sleep sounder than you have in months. You will desire this feeling until the next time you lace up, the tingles rippling from your heel every time you see your running shoes.
For as independent an act running can be, you are still exercising in public. You are noticing and being noticed. At the start of a run, you’re hyperaware of those around you. You start writing mental stories about them:
Our bodies revolve about the body of fresh water that is tucked behind those busy streets. I see you on Wednesdays around 6 o’clock. By then we are both rosy in the cheeks. I run counter the lake to your clockwise. When we’re really pushing ourselves, we see each other twice. Some days we only do one lap and head back to our real lives. You are a momentary flicker in my life. Quite soon I will go for my run and will not see you, or the reverse. Even before that, there will be days that you will not intersect with my path. Instead, because of my life of solitude, you will be replaced by another. For you are a placeholder. The longer I remain alone, the clearer it becomes that perhaps all my past romances have been mere placeholders. Who is to know when I might open that place to be held? This hiatus from intimacy makes my self all the more difficult to bare.
If nothing else, running long distances offers ample time for reflection.
Recently, a one of my nephews asked how old I was and upon hearing my response followed up with another question: “When are you getting married?” I smiled at this and asked if he thought I should be married. He nodded an affirmative reply.
I have been a dreamer for the better part of my life, but I know I cannot conjure up a soul mate. Nor can I get those back from my past who I have been unable to take with me on my journey. She is out there, though, somewhere. Maybe we’ve already met. Whenever the paths of our circuits cross, I know these things to be true. I want to be the pebble in her shoe; the thing that keeps her going just a little further than she thinks she can. I want her to wear me in like a new pair of running shoes. I want her to make me want to wear and share the same soul, tread the same paths, dip through the same puddles, and carry the same muddy splatters as she does on my calves. I want her to be strong. I want her to make me strong. I want to make her strong.
No matter what, running guarantees some rhythmic stability in life. The next time you’re out there, listen to the sound your shoes make as they grip the ground. Acknowledge the steady process of your lungs transforming oxygen to carbon dioxide. Let your mind go white for a while. Life will be there when you get back. And it will easier to face.