My internal clock. Or, perhaps my persistent restlessness tells me daybreak is fast approaching and I must hurry to capture the essence of what I seek before the dawn on this crisp morning.
Strange, I ponder as I search for my left Nike, how one’s mind can selfishly ignore its own body to cater to its own needs. My hunger pangs like a migraine and my muscles are so tight they threaten to snap with every movement. Yet my mind adamantly directs me onward, ignoring all physical distress signals, apparently fully depleted of the benefits from yesterday’s exercise routine and demanding to recycle and purge a whole new collection of anxious thoughts and negative emotions.
The fresh air never fails to startle me, so alarmingly invigorating. My first few steps are always with hesitation, recognizing with tepid confidence they will get easier and more fluid with each forthcoming step. The motions are clearly stiff and forced as my body sends distress signals that radiate everywhere claiming it is not adequately prepared for the immediate task at hand. Nevertheless, I continue onward, as my stubborn mind will dictate the course of events this morning, claiming it’s dominion over body. It is precisely at this moment that the underlying theme of running is clearly validated: sanity, not vanity!
As I turn the first long corner, my mind acknowledges and rises to the challenge of the run. The confrontation is not so much man versus territory, but rather mind versus body. My mind must conquer my body’s ailing alarm bells in order to prevail in its mission of purging the mind and depleting its contents, fully recognizing the payback for this abuse will be substantial. Because deep down inside, despite my internal dialogue of denial, I know I am not a distance runner and the next forty-five minutes promises to be pure physical torture. Nevertheless, I focus on each Nike, left then right, lift then land, step by step, never allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the overall magnitude of the challenge. One step at a time.
There’s a miraculous, nearly spiritual feeling I experience on tranquil mornings like this; here, just as the day’s first glimmer of light teases this sleepy city. Now, and only now, I feel an integral part of a larger thing – at one with my world and it’s surroundings. There’s a common bond – a certain death that we share. But it’s a positive death, for on these early mornings we will experience a death and rebirth. It is an awakening, a purging of sorts with the promise of a new start. Essentially, it is a death before life, not after.
An intense focus is necessary in this early stage of the run as it truly is both a physical & mental challenge initially. I stay present, immersed in the moment, focused on my breath and sensation on my feet. Miraculously, at some undefinable stage, all my efforts gradually grow easier and flow more naturally. The breathing channels open, the stiffness disappears, and everything becomes nearly effortless. Similar to a high performance car operating at a dangerous RPM level, the machinery starts to purr as it shifts into a higher gear. Oddly, this turning point does not occur incrementally, but instantaneously without advance notice. A smile, subtle yet undeniable, never ceases to occur at this moment for even though I may be a small fraction of the total trek, the battle is over and I’m now simply claiming territory. Synergy now exists – mind & body are one and in sync – and we now are aligned with a common goal to conquer the distance.
All my senses become sharper and more aware: the air is crisper; nature’s beautiful colors more vivid; and the various sounds of my surroundings more distinguishable. I am in the moment. Total harmony within myself and the environment is achieved, which ultimately delivers a blissful inner peace. I feel as if I am one with the universe. The emotional baggage I carried has been deposited somewhere on these trails during dawn, purged once again to freely enjoy my surroundings. As I corner the final bend of my run with the finish line now in sight, I break into a near sprint with total absence of pain. I am in the zone. Victory is mine.
This sense of euphoria flows through my veins, washing away all my worries that rivals the effect of any controlled substance. Despite the physiological debate, I would argue this elated state is a result of accomplishment, a mastery of mind over body. After all, success within one’s self is to claim victory or ownership over self. For a shining moment, I relish my victory knowing full well it all resets tomorrow…