The Starting Line

Always having been a physically active child, outside playing ball or tag with my siblings, running was just a natural part of it all. I was a couple years away from high school when running grabbed a deeper hold on me. We had foot races at school near the end of the year. One was a longer race which I participated in and won. In retrospect, what seemed long then was probably only 400 meters or so, but I was hooked.

Partly hooked because I had been successful, but just as much because it was an individual event and I was solely responsible for the efforts that impacted the outcomes. I was also involved in team sports in school, but running captivated this lonely, somewhat tortured introvert.

Not fully realizing it until now, running served another significant purpose. There was much I didn’t understand about life and myself, much I felt no power to determine. Running was different. It gave me the opportunity to push myself as much or as little as I wanted, to learn some self-control. I had the power to start and finish something all on my own. I learned to feel joy from within, after years of looking for it elsewhere. These two poems, from my early teens, reflect the empowerment I had already found in running.

Lonely Runner

I race no one

Except myself

I run alone

A solitary figure

Rising over a hill

Plodding along

Mile after mile

On an endless road

I beat no one

Except a clock

For I am

The lonely runner

 (1979)

 

 Running 

 I run to be free

Of my problems

I run to be alone

Just me and my body

I run to compete

To run my best and win

To feel my body

Going it’s fullest

To feel the breeze

Against my face

I run to think

Of who I am

And who I love

I run for satisfaction

To reach my goals

I run because—

I was born to

 3/18/81  (age 15)

From the starting line of that school foot race, every run since has fed my body and soul in healthy ways.

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