Two days ago, for the first time in a long time, I ran.
There’s a little event held every Tuesday in Roanoke called the Pub Run. It begins at Wasena City Tap Room and loops through the greenway in either a three-mile or five-mile course.
It felt strange, and also comforting, to run in such a large group. Everyone there wore a glow bracelet, a headlamp or a flashing light, so that as the crowd strung out along the trail in the six o’clock dark — panting and glowing and sparkling — I felt suddenly like I was part of a slow-wheeling galaxy.
A river full of bobbing orbs of light.
It had been months since the last time I ran, and many years since I raced competitively, and I’ll tell you: I felt every one of those lazy days:
Heartbeat throbbing in my skull.
The crash of each footstep reverberating up through fragile tibia and fibula.
After a mile and a half, everything cried out at once:
And I could have silenced all those voices like flipping a switch — could have plunged them into oblivion, and put another mile or two behind me without feeling a thing.
Years ago, I learned the art of slipping out of my body when it pained me — a single step sideways into numbness.
Athletes learn this trick in moderation, and save it for important moments. They need to hear their bodies on a day-to-day basis… need to know which muscles are fraying and ready to snap. And so for them, the decision to listen to pain or to ignore it is a constant negotiation between the body and the will. A dance.
But there are other people who ignore their body’s suffering for so long that it ceases to cry out at all.
The body and soul live together, but they don’t speak, like that long-married couple you know who drift past each other in the hallway on their ways to separate bedrooms, exchanging only the most rudimentary words, the briefest glances.
I think you know what I mean.
And yet after all this time, I am learning: if you want to feel the pleasure, you must also feel the pain.
As I passed the halfway mark on Tuesday’s run, I felt long bands of pain reach around my torso and clench tight.
I ran slower, trying to keep my spine straight, my head up, but the pain worsened. It yanked one shoulder downward so that I cringed into a crooked shuffle.
And right then, I could have flipped that old switch: shaken myself loose from the pain and surged forward into the dark.
But I didn’t.
I decided then and there that if my Body and Soul are going to live together, then they might as well be intimate. They ought to feel each other’s joys … and also each other’s suffering.
And so I let the pain come.
The river of blinking lights parted and rushed around me.
I let myself be carried along.
A little while later, I crossed the finish line at a walk.
There was a hitch in my stride and a slow burn in my calves. The old stress fractures in my legs ached. Still — I felt whole and at home in myself, in a way I haven’t in years.
And it was good.
Oh, God … It was good.
Next week, I begin again. ❤