I exercised for a few minutes today. It wasn’t very vigorous exercise, but when I finished I felt flushed and my heart rate was elevated. I marveled at how a small amount of physical activity affects me so greatly now in comparison to when I was a runner. I was the kind of runner that actually trained for races: 5km, 10km, and even Half Marathon and Marathon distances. I had a running partner and we were members of a running club. We became running partners because we noticed that when we ran with the larger group we ran at a similar pace. My running partner and I would run together on days the cub didn’t meet. It was great to have someone around to kick your ass on those days when you felt too lazy to get dressed and tie your shoes, or to make running a well-known route less boring. Now, even though neither of us runs anymore, we’re still good friends who support each other in different ways.
I miss running. I miss the steady fall of my feet on paved roads or hilly, dirt trails through city parks. I miss the bounce and cushion from a brand new pair of running shoes. I miss the familiar sound of the footfalls of other runners as we started out on a group run. I miss competing with myself – or my running partner – to improve my time to complete a single mile or the full distance of a race. I miss the single-minded, meditative focus of running until we completed a mapped route. I miss the freedom my body felt as I carried myself over miles of open space or along city streets, reminding myself to concentrate on nothing more than one perfectly planted footfall at a time.
The only things I don’t miss are my toenails becoming bloody, and eventually turning black then falling off, from the endless pounding of my feet against the hard ground; and people asking if we were crazy because we ran even in blistering heat or extreme cold weather. However, I wouldn’t mind those things now, if it meant I could run again. If it meant the only pain I felt would be muscle soreness or the burn in my lungs from pushing through the last distance of a run. I wouldn’t mind if the pain in my legs, hip, pelvis, and back meant I was active, instead of being my constant state of existence. I definitely wouldn’t mind if taking a pill was to relieve the temporary ache of a knee or rolled ankle, instead of pain medications making me able to move the same parts of my body now.
I would run again if I could. I would run without complaining about the heat or cold, or even the lightest rains. I would run without moaning about waking early on a weekend morning to train with my club for an upcoming race. I would run in appreciation of how amazing it is that the human body can transport itself with swiftness from one place to the next without external assistance. I would run to the rhythm of my rapidly beating heart, without any other soundtrack to distract me. I would run again, if I could, just because I can.
Manfred Mann – The Runner