Taking It In Stride

Taking It In Stride

My lungs would not expand enough to sate my needs. What little air could be gasped was heavy and burned my throat in the cold morning darkness. The thermostat had read 5 degrees Fahrenheit when I pulled the door closed behind me. Music playing in my ears, more to drown out the bitter winter wind than to fill the silence.

…almost there…

My footing gives a little under my weight forcing me to half stumble, half lunge over the remaining sheet of ice. A twinge of pain rockets up my calf and traverses my outer knee. I mentally check for other areas which may be hurting as I shorten my steps.

…just a little bit more…

My head starts to swim, my thundering pulse threatens to drown out the song playing in my ears. If only I could get one deep breath, I will be able to clear out the weight compressing my chest. I straighten up and pull my stomach tighter. My legs reach out for distance as I come around the corner. The streetlamp lights the sidewalk in front of me as I crest the hill. My chest expands in a final effort and the barriers break. Cold January air expands every passage of my lungs and I can breathe again. Glancing over my shoulder into the descending darkness, I turn left and push on before my steps can falter. There is no time for quitting…

…for I am a runner.

Running. Some call it a sport—others a torture. I call it therapy for those who refuse to seek professional help. It is a time where the chemistry and physiology of your body are in overdrive—creating healthy hormones, building muscles, and cleansing the pores of the toxicity of life. Running can also be filled with aches, pains, and the lasting effects of being deprived of air from pushing beyond your limits. However, at its core, running is a solitary exercise which allows one to get inside his thoughts. To me, it is a waking dream where I can explore any thought or idea without distractions. Running is my therapy. The streets are where I run my crazy away.

I am a morning runner—which for those who might have known the younger me, is quite ironic. I was not what you would call a morning person. Some may know what I mean. I was THAT guy who needed three alarm clocks, all of which were ignored until the roommate burst in the door screaming. Now, I still have alarms, but they are hours before the sun breaks the horizon. I like to think it was due to embracing life a little more and not the fact of getting older. It could be the latter. Either way, I was able to use this “found” time to begin running more consistently.
I started running in the morning as a way to get out and get motivated for the day. What I had not foreseen was it also helps relieve stress and increase focus throughout the day. The dark empty streets are the perfect canvas to write the story of my day. Beginning with a deep breath and a focus toward the future, I challenge myself with every step. I push further with each morning and explore more streets. Through the cold mornings, my resolve is tested but, it doesn’t begin with facing the cold. No, it starts when my single alarm chirps and I throw back the covers to begin my day.

It has been over a few years since I began running again. I ran many events, contributed to multiple charities, and became a better person. Running became my gateway drug for cycling, charity work, and community involvement. Am I better because I run? I do not know. But what I do know is since that cold January morning, I have challenged myself to climb the hill faster, not always living up to the challenge. Some days, I even accomplish my goal.

Until next time…

jerry b. 

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