Friday, October 15, 2010

As fast as you can

My favorite pair of running shoes are the ones I purchased this summer—the tread on my old ones had gotten run down, so when I found a shoe sale I pounced on a pair I deemed to be infinitely more exotic than my old breed. They’re gray Adidas with a pink mesh tongue and gray and pink laces. They’re edged in black on the bottom, and when I wear them, I’m not just going for run; I am a runner.

They aren’t the only pair of shoes I’ve been known to run in, though. I’ve run in 4-inch stilettos, in leather ballet flats, in boots and in zebra printed flip-flops. Because when you run from being uncomfortable, from anything that makes you afraid, from the unknown and from the future, you’ve always got to be ready to go, gym bag on hand or not. Those triggers can pop up anywhere—and they do.

But lately, I’ve been learning how to limit my running to the (figurative) track. Tracks have always seemed like a hamster wheel to me, and running one feels like you’re revolving around an unending ring of torture. When I first started running in high school, I could literally only make one full lap around the track near my home. But the longer I kept at it, the more I realized that running is only one part strength—the rest of it is endurance.

I had to start making the choice to keep going around that track. It’s about willpower, determination, about not letting yourself quit the second you start imagining a cramp. I used to run with music, until a running coach in college encouraged me not to. There’s enough noise in this world, she said. Listen to your body. So I did—and it scared me at first. The silence was sharp, and I hated being able to hear the sound of my own breathing. I would start off just fine, but by the end of the first mile I was running on high alert, afraid because my breath was coming in huffs that felt more like a rising panic attack than a healthy influx of oxygen.

After a month of running to the music of my own feet, though, I stopped begin afraid. I heard each breath, and even when I was struggling through a portion of my run, I stopped imagining that it would be my last. I stopped concentrating on the pain in my back, my knee, my ankle, my whatever, and instead learned to feel the wind, learn the rhythm of my own feet, hear the growing strength in my steps and know what it’s like to be comfortable without and sort of background distraction. It’s a painfully necessary thing, learning not to fear being alone with yourself.

And besides, running in stilettos just can’t be safe.

“Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God as called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 12-14

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Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.