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I know this scenario well. I also know that there is something indefinable, some innate force, which drives me up that hill against the cries of the ache in my side and my tired legs. My heavy arms will continue to pump away into the air which wants to restrain the flow of motion. Still, something more than my arms gets me up that hill. Something intangible and incomprehensible tells me that I am strong, stronger than the biting knot in my stomach and the sharp twist in my thigh.
Every run is a journey, an experience which changes my perspective and renews me. I confront the part of myself which inspires me and propels me forward. Running has shown me my boundaries, yet it also has taught me to deny their capacity for inhibition. I have learned to accept my own limits. While there is a point where my power to push forward ends, I must bask in the glory of the adventures which lay within.
I have learned to set personal goals and to value the rewards of hard work, focus, and consistency. I may not win a race, but I feel fulfilled when my times improve. My body and mind are enlivened and strengthened. I am better equipped to face the next task - on or off the track. Running has taught me about the power of will - the conscious choices we make -- plunging into the depths of the challenges -- or wallowing in comfort and familiarity, never summoning our strengths.
When I run, I hear the voices of my coaches reflecting on their own high school running careers: wishing, rejoicing, regretting. I am overwhelmed by my ability to seize the moment. Running makes me feel alive, lures me to the outdoors where the swelling air greets my fast, short, breaths and my feet pound heavily on the ground.
I have run before school, at five thirty in the morning, against the sun which slowly rises in a burst of colors above the tree line. I have gone for five mile jogs in the cold of winter, running alongside the naked trees, with the wind nibbling at my ears, biting my nose, and caressing my cheeks as the cold dances on the surface of the warmth deep inside. I have run out in the pouring rain, my clothing clinging to my body like a frightened child and the cool rain waters mysteriously merging with the perspiration on my skin.
In his masterful novel, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell asserts that human beings are born too soon. At birth we are unfinished, unready to face the world. Of all animals, we remain the longest at the mother breast. We all grow up as wanderers, groping in the dark for alcoves which shelter us from dangers. We search for roles to play, and hope to embrace pursuits which teach us who we are. I comfortably slip into running each day. It has helped me grasp the glory of transforming thought into action. It has made me believe that, as the humanist Leonardo Baruni wrote, "The whole glory of man lies in activity". Running is a beautiful thing.
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