Running in the Dark.
Running is really hard for me, and I pretty much hate it. I’ve never run for exercise, and never wanted to. But my daughter loves it, and when she talks about the joy it brings her, I feel like I am missing out. I decide I need to give this a real shot. I want to feel her joy. I decide to start running, and publicly announce my intention to my family. They look at me like I’m crazy and I take it as a challenge. I buy running shoes.
Unfortunately, my memory of running is accurate. It is a real struggle. My body wants to dance, not run. It hurts. I’m tired. I’m hot. I can’t breathe. Fuck.
Still. I keep trying. I tell myself to go little by little. I give myself landmarks to hit, and then allow myself to walk a bit. I try taking great music with me. None of it makes it suck less. I am bribing myself as I go. I am miserable.
I feel like an absolute failure. There is no light, no joy in this at all. It is hell. I stop for a week and hope no one notices. My shiny, brand new running shoes sit idle in my closet- taunting me. I kick one of them in response.
I wake up too early this morning. I can’t sleep. Our fire alarm battery has been beeping since 3 am. I don’t want to get up yet, but I have way too much on my mind to stay in bed. I turn on my closet light, and I see my running shoes. It is pitch black outside. I realize I don’t care. I’m doing this.
I put a leash on the youngest of my dogs, and out we go. It is dark, and kind of cold. I move into a slow jog. Surprisingly, it feels easy. It is quiet. And dark. And beautiful. I run.
I can’t see any of the landmarks I normally use to bribe myself onward - it is too dark to see much of anything. I just put one foot in front of the other. I run through the darkness, one step at a time. I trust myself to move, and don’t worry about where I am going, how fast or slow I am moving, what time it is, or anything else. I just run.
In the darkness, I notice the stillness. The quiet. The calm. The ease of my breath. The chill in the air. My dog is spooked by a random shadow even darker than the night or a crinkling leaf every few minutes, but I trust. I run. It is easy. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see - I know I am safe.
As I finish my loop, I realize I don’t really want to stop. I run a little bit more, relishing the darkness and the solitude of this time. I am reminded of something important.
Joy doesn’t only come from light, and the darkness isn’t scary. Sometimes, we have to run straight through it to realize how magical it actually is.