For just split seconds, I am floating, flying, feeling the space pass by. Then the flying ends, subtalar joint and plantar fascia absorbing the first impact of my landing. Gastrocnemius, soleus, and Achilles tendon maintain my stance, and along with my hamstring orchestrate takeoff. Then I am flying again, rectus femoris and iliopsoas swinging my leg forward.
My feet beat the drum of the earth, sarcomeres lengthening and then shortening, orchestrating flight and breath and blood flow. They lengthen and shorten, again and again. Intercostals and diaphragm labor rhythmically, cycling through hunger for air and fleeting relief.
As re-oxygenated blood returns to my left atrium, my attention returns to my thoughts. At first they fought for an audience, demanding my attention as I focus instead on the world around me, but soon it’s just me and my thoughts, as the air streams across my face. My legs stay strong, but beg me to stop. As I finish my run, my thoughts are with me, but whispering politely instead of shouting for attention, willing to leave as quietly as they came.
It isn’t the running, it’s the calm, the quiet, the peace in the cacophony. It isn’t the running, it’s the brisk morning breeze, the bronze fall leaves, the stars between the stars in the night sky. It isn’t the running, it’s me passing through space – a shooting star in the night sky trying to shine bright in the milliseconds I have to add a little light to the world. It isn’t the running, it’s the feeling of perfect harmony as the rhythm of my legs and arms and breath seems to match the rhythm of the world. It isn’t the running, so it is the running.
In the singularly focused chaos of medical school, running was just what I needed to reconnect with nature and the city around me. Earlier in medical school, a friend had asked me if I ran, and I answered, “Nope! Why would I run? I only chase soccer balls and cookies”. I am grateful that we are able to change, and I am now able to see beauty where I could see none before.
Photo Credit: Mark Hesseltine