It’s 5.30 pm and the tensions of the day are catching up with me. The workplace is gone but everyone’s problems that I need to solve run around in my head. The vision of my to-do list that never seems to get any shorter flashes across my mind. I portion out time for the things that I want to happen tonight but somehow I can’t make them all fit.
The smallest perceived slights of loved ones bubble to the surface. The negative thoughts that come in are heavy and get stuck, as my brain churns them round and round but doesn’t spit them out. My brain is stuck, but I feel this tension in my body as well. I realise my teeth are touching, the muscles in my jaw contracting without my approval. My shoulders are sneaking closer to my ears. Even my toes push down into the ground to raise my heels off the floor. My fingers curl and I realise that I can’t out think this tension, I need to approach it differently.
I reach into my bottom drawer and pull out my gear. It looks good and begins to calm my mind as I get ready to begin. Tension remains as I prep. The final step is tying the brightly coloured knots before I head out the door. The first minute is the hardest, my brain fights against me and tells me to stop. Thankfully my body does this often, so I can just let it go on autopilot to get me to begin.
The initial discomfort passes and I become aware of the consistent ‘pat-pat’ as my shoes hit the pavement, the rhythm reassures me. My leg muscles load under tension then spring back as I push off. My shoulders start to loosen as my arms swing by my sides. My breath comes heavier but regular.
I start to take in my surroundings. The greens of the leaves and grasses. The pinks, reds, oranges, and other colours whose names I don’t know that make up the sunset resting over the hilly skyline. The piercing whiteness of the half-moon on a background of deep blue as I turn the corner. The cars zip by me a remnant of the tense hustle of the day. A nod, not always returned, to the runners and walkers that I pass; each of them in their own little world. The occasional ‘hey’ is exchanged.
The thoughts still rise to the surface, only now they fade away again. Running washes them over the sulci of my brain, in and out of the crevasses. A thought pops up long enough to be acknowledged then disappears somewhere to be quickly replaced by another. These thoughts are light and move easily. They aren’t the heavy thoughts spouted by that negative voice which resides within.
Soon enough the corners of my mouth start to curl up, often one at a time. The smile relaxes me even more, the tension is all gone now. It’s hard not to be happy when you are so thankful for the people around you, for the world that you live in, and for my body that can do amazing things, and carry me amazing places.
People ask me “So you run for fitness?” Of course I do. But mostly I run because it makes me a better person.