In the summer of 2010, I attempted to run in North Carolina, on a summer night. I think I made it 3/10 of a mile before I had to walk a little, and run again. I could repeat this only two or three times before I had to quit altogether. It wasn't quite my time to run yet.
When I had returned home to Pennsylvania, I ramped up my hiking. I started running parts of the ascent up the Honesdale cliff. I walked longer, and "harder." The warmer climate of August and September probably made it difficult to transition to running.
After thanksgiving, I wanted something more. It was colder out, and I had gotten a bit more fit since August, not to mention the year previous to that. So when I felt I was ready, I prepared for it, and set out to run. The choice of road was important. I wanted to run at least one mile, and I wanted to do it in relative solitude (you would understand if you saw my previous attempts at running).
So I chose riverside drive in White Mills, PA. It is the road I used to live on, after I had been expelled from my place of residence at 16. This road has meaning for me for a few reasons. There is metamorphosis on this road. It was there I was forced into an early, mistake-fraught adulthood, only partly subsidized. It was there I was first truly alone, and there I made a conversion into a religion that would change my life inexorably, for better or worse (now, after leaving it, for the better is something I can truly say).
A great degree of my actions as of late have been reclamation. Getting my old guitars back, revamping my musical style, spreading the knowledge I have within me regarding music, life, and religion; and I felt that running back to the end of that road, where my trailer once stood, was like I could turn the entire world backwards and reclaim that pre-religoid soul that I had left behind, laying next to the river with my cat, acoustic guitar in hand, pretending I'm Neil Young's character in the song "powderfinger."
And physical changes too. Back in those days, hardly having anything to eat except school lunches and apple pies from a local general store, I was quite thinner. Not to mention I was walking from White Mills to Hawley to see friends at a fairly regular basis. I was reclaiming in every way possible. I was fighting the wraiths of my past, and the scourges of getting older and not having taken care of myself as I could have.
So I started running. At first, Jill helped immensely. The road was .6 miles long, which meant to go to the end and come back was 1.2 miles, obviously. To her, this was nothing. She waited up for me, she motivated me. I made a pact to myself that I need to get through the entire thing no matter what, no matter how many times I stopped, no matter how many gallons of spit I propelled from my face in tiresome repetition.
At first I stopped four times.
Next time it was three.
After that it was one.
It wasn't long before I didn't have to stop at all.
I realized then that I was fighting death. Everything around me and within me felt like chaos, like it was overtly attempting to kill me. The ice on the ground, on which I never slipped, the cold air infiltrating my lungs, my bodily systems simultaneously supplicating my end to this exercise and treasonously shutting down while I pressed on, my own mental desire for inactivity. They were all against me but the human spirit, be it whatever it may be, was indomitable. It was pushing me along to live, to scream out of my frustration, I am alive. I am here, and I am using the energy given me by the earth, and returning to what I truly am, connected to your nature, and grateful.
And the benefits have been awesome. I have gone from 1.2 miles, to 2 miles, to 3, and now nearly to 4. It has been one year. I have lost only 30 lbs, but it has been significant in how I feel and how it changes a day. It is now a daily routine. I have struggled to run every single day in the past year. I have mostly succeeded. I would say one out of twelve days I ran - at least 1.2 miles, I would say on average 2.5 miles a day. I have run on the coldest winter days, in heavy snow, on ice, in painful stabs of rain and the draining heat. I have fought against nature whilst connecting with it.
When I was religious, I hoped for a paradise where I could wrestle a benevolent bear (this was one of the tenets of my old religion, that we would one day live in harmony with animals, as the Bible "says"). Sounds odd, I realize. But I think the feeling was that I wanted to connect with something I could struggle with, something I know I could never defeat but would allow me a chance to experience its power. Something that embraces me now, and will embrace me in death.
I have found this adversarial friend through running.