Just like any other day, I woke up early, laced on my sleek yet worn out racing flats, quietly sneaked out the door into the pre-dawn landscape, and began to run. Except this time, I wasn’t going to let it be like any other day. Running has become such a habit and routine for me, and a significant piece of who I am and how I express myself, yet sometimes I lose focus of the reasons why. Sure, I run for fitness, fun, and the social aspects involved with the sports of Cross-Country and Track and Field, and yes, it is always an invigorating and special feeling when I beat an opponent, win a race, or establish a new personal record. But, why not play another sport which can yield many of the same benefits? Why do I put in an unmeasurable amount of hours not only with mileage and training, but with reading, researching, watching, and investigating all there is to discover about the art of running? On this early morning, slicing through the frigid November air, I decided to allow myself to be mindful of why I run, and why I will continue to be running years and years from now.
Starting out at a quick saunter, in the attempt to warm up my frozen toes and raw, exposed face, I immediately found my legs automatically heading in the direction of Needham’s small yet captivating wilderness: the Cutler Park woods. Nature has always held a certain allure for me, sparking my curiosity with its contrasting views of simplicity and profound complexity. Through running, I have come to respect my surroundings and the vast Earth I inhabit. Quickly, it seemed, my Garmin Forerunner buzzed on my wrist, alerting me of the first mile mark, which coincidentally coincided with the mile mark of my favorite childhood 5k road race, Needham Track Club’s Great Bear Run. The next few minutes I reminisced about that race, a race in which I racked up so many brightly colored ribbons I probably had enough to make several complete rainbows. These memories reminded me of how I was attracted early on to running by the pure speed and pleasure I felt, and the amazing notion of human movement. Simply stated, our ability to run and endure as human beings is what distinguishes us from all the other species on the planet. After darting across Greendale’s busy intersection like a game of Frogger, I crossed over the rushing cars on I-95, and veered left, into the peaceful and welcoming back entrance of Cutler. My mind instantly became more clear, locking into what many refer to as “flow”, and I was no longer distracted by the revving of engines, the beeping of horns, and the slamming of doors. Instead, I paid attention to the sounds of the forest, the uneven ground beneath my feet, and the newfound feeling of freedom I experienced. Sprinting around the next hairpin bend in the trail, I became entirely immersed in the present moment.
The splendors of trail running have as much to do with the relative remoteness of the wooded, leaf-covered trails I weave through, as it has to do with its unexplainable ability in transcending oneself. Running through parks, meadows, forests, and mountains allows our senses to roam free and clears our mind of the minor and major stresses of everyday life. In my solitude, as my feet spring across the wooden planks of a boardwalk, I am left with time to think, process, and engage in introspection, in order to experience self-awareness and make sense of reality. Running has taught me not just about life in general, but about myself as an individual, and it has opened countless windows of opportunity I have been eager to accept. Running has unmasked my limitless potential, given me a sense of invincibility, and the belief that with the right amount of effort and perseverance, and especially a strong mindset, anything is possible. I run to get the best out of myself, to prove to myself my capabilities and power, and to inspire others to achieve their own dreams in life. As I become lost among the trees towering overhead, I am happy to say I have reached a better understanding of why running isn't just a physical passion for me, but a passion encapsulating my entire being.