When I was younger I ran everywhere: down to the barn for morning chores at 5 a.m., down our gravel road to the creek filled with rainbow fish and the child-sized culvert we used to crawl through and secretly onto our neighbor’s land, around the bases of our local baseball diamond. It wasn’t until high school that I learned to run measured distances. I ran the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes. Mostly, I ran these races because they were short and required little exertion on my part. Towards the end of my sophomore year, however, due to slipping grades and an adolescent malaise, my parents asked me to hang up my track cleats. I obliged only slightly begrudgingly. Honestly, track had taken the fun and enjoyment out of running. A round track, even a long one, seems like a cage when compared to the open, muddy fields I used to tromp through with my winter boots in the early morning fog of spring. I used to wear myself out chasing chickens around the coop courtyard, chasing baby goats around the barn, or racing my brother to home plate for a too-close-to-call tag-out play.
This Sunday afternoon, I ran again. Ice and snow were foreboding, but their icy fingers lost their grip. I was elusive. I was the wind and the sunlight and the clouds.
Okay, so I only ran 4 miles, but still. Something inside me came back to life. Today, I read an article on Runner's World about how running can be a spiritual experience; how running can awaken and sharpen your desire to pray. I'm not sure if this is true. I can say that I'm struck with a simple, childlike awe when I spend any large chunk of time outside. That awe is closer to prayer than I sometimes come for a whole week. Delight, utter joy at being alive, thankfulness. These are what come back to life in me. I'm learning to delight in the simple things, the things I've always known: sunlight, snow, music, even work.
It is with this gusto that I begin my attempt at running this year's half-marathon. I haven't signed up yet. I'm the kind of person who wants to be very sure he can do something before really committing to it. Consider this post at least a slight commitment. It's on. Sort of.