New York City – Central Park in particular – was really beautiful on Thursday morning, the grass coated with a powdery dusting of snow that made me think of the Manhattan half just a few short weeks ago. (A bit less blizzard though.)
Years ago, during a particularly tough period in my life, it used to be that running was the only time I could think clearly. It was meditative – the equivalent of sitting in a dark room with a quiet, calm mind. The icy rivers of Ann Arbor served as the perfect backdrop for a wandering mind, and still, when I recall those first few years (stepping out for 5 minutes at a time, then 10, and eventually an hour and more), I associate running with mental – ironically, not physical – exhaustion.
I’ve come a long way since then, and I don’t think I’ve realized it until recently. Since starting to run longer distances, and since incorporating family and friends into my routes (whether in Jamaica or not), my daily runs have taken on a whole new meaning.
What I’ve slowly realized is that grouping myself with other like-minded athletes has allowed me to remove that wall that running used to represent. Whereas an hour on my own, panting and sweating, used to serve as an escape from reality, it’s now become my link to life.
I ran the entire length of the Manhattan Half Marathon with Noah, who in truth, is one of the reasons why I’ve continued to run all these years. Though significantly faster than me, I’ve been able to challenge myself to the point of physical – not mental – exhaustion when running at his side. While the half marathon, due to weather, didn’t present the time or place for speed, 13.1 miles will always be a challenge; having someone to celebrate that victory with at the finish line was a feeling I’ll never forget.
For the last few weekends, I’ve ran with an old friend of mine who will soon be tackling her first PDR. Thursday morning, I ran with a new friend who happens to frequent the same bottom loop of Central Park I love so much. My cousin, who used to share the same sentiments as me about running alone (though for totally different, less crazy reasons), even lets me tag along for a loop of the reservoir every now and then.
Running isn’t isolating anymore. Sure, it will always have the capacity to transport me to a totally different state of mind, but I’m not that scared of sharing that space – or that hour of time – with someone else any more.
Like I said, since I’ve started running, I’ve come a long, long way. But I suppose if you think about it, that’s the point; to continually push yourself further and further away from that starting line and toward some end point. Wherever that is.