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There is a chill in the air as I step out of my car. The slamming of my door sounds hollow against the stillness of the pre-dawn morning. Softly, like whispers on the wind, I can hear waves crashing in the distance. I stand there, alone in the darkness, waiting patiently for my watch to sync with satellites miles and miles away. My watch beeps. I shake out my legs one final time, and then I am on my way.
Alone I strike out into the darkness as the world around me slumbers on. The sound of my feet slowly but steadily striking the boardwalk is all that keeps me company. As my heart rate increases and my breathing settles in, I allow the stillness of the morning to soothe me. In these early morning runs I am able to find solace in my otherwise stressful life. My mind is clear, free of the distractions of work, parenting, and life. In this solitude I am at one with myself. All that matters is putting one foot in front of the other. I control my pace. I control my breathing. I control this moment.
As the miles slip away any residual fog of sleep dissipates. I am clear, sharp, focused. To my side the dawn eases into existence. The sky brightens, the sun rises. In these moments I see the hope and promise that a new day has to offer.
My journey is far from over. I continue on, my strength and motivation increasing with each determined stride. Sweat drips down as the sun warms me from the outside in. My muscles are loose now; my steps come with ease. There is gracefulness to my movements, like a gazelle playfully gliding over the plains. I am free. I am alive.
As the sun continues its ascent, the world around me begins to awaken. I hear a lawn mower start in the distance. Surfers and fisherman begin to appear on the shore. I pass other runners, some on a solo journey like myself while others enjoy the company of friends. We share a brief moment…a nod, a grunt, a smile…secretly knowing what the rest of the world does not. Running is ours, and ours alone. It is our escape. It is our joy. It is our family.
As the miles wind down and I find myself nearing the finish, the world is fully alive. Families in SUVs compete to find parking. Eateries open umbrellas and set up chairs for their morning crowds. The boardwalk path, which not an hour before had been mine alone is now a crowded maze. I run left. I run right. I slide sideways between the self-occupied crowds who fail the see the beauty of the world around them.
I race towards the finish line with renewed vigor. My arms pump and my lungs burn as I speed past unsuspecting bystanders. As my feet cross a finish line that only I can see, I raise my face to the sky and bask in the warmth of the sun and the glory of a journey well run.
Though I now return to the chaos of life, I do so with a renewed spirit and positive outlook on what the new day may bring.
The above was originally published in Like the Wind Magazine, Issue #5. Reprinted with permission.