Most of our entertainment mediums: our social media accounts, cell phones and films are engineered to help us fool reality.
They transport us to a virtual space where concrete answers are a Google search away, acceptance is traded through clicks of approval, and we can become anything we imagine.
Running is different. Running grabs you by your pulmonary arteries and rams you back into reality. It causes you to experience the human condition in its endorphin-fueled, dying and rebuilding entirety.
Running forces you to be present, to feel your tired soles shuffling along the dirt road, your heart’s staccato sounding like dueling drummers in a thunderstorm.
You will die.
Running makes you aware of this. You are about to fall over from the pain. You want to stop. You need to stop. You want to melt into the hot earth and become no more than a murky puddle in the pavement.
You welcome this. You are ready for this. You want this. But you press on.
You are alive.
You can experience it with all five of your senses and the little voice in the back of your brain that tells you how stupid you are for running, for straining your tendons and tearing your kneecaps.
It’s hurts. It’s stupid. But you hear a voice that rises a little higher and says “go on.”
You cannot escape your humanity. You know you will try. You know the possibility of a few hours of virtual escape, but you also know it will never feel as good as this. It’s not true. It’s not what’s waiting at the end.
You are here. This is your life. You are living.
I’ve experienced this feeling running across cultures and continents.
Racing down the mountain in El Carmen del Guadalupe in San Jose, Costa Rica. Rising at dawn and walking through the silent beach town to sprint along the ocean’s waves in Guanacaste.
Passing the children and poodles jogging in the City Park in Slovakia. Running the streets of East Fort Worth, Texas while living with refugees from over 15 different countries.
Racing across history’s bloodiest battlefields in Fredericksburg, Virginia, or near the Rappahannock River where John Smith visited indigenous leaders.
Exploring the dirt trails and the wheat fields with my dad near my home in rural Texas.
No matter where I go, I hear this voice say, “You have to stop. You have to die.”
And then another one says, “You are living! You are here! What are you going to do with this sweating, asphyxiating, laughing-at-death life?”
You are present. You are living. Run on.