Most relationships are challenging. Friendships have moments of confusion. Workplaces have times of conflict, whether passive-aggressive or overt. Families can be a chaotic rollercoaster. Romantic relationships are tumultuous, fluctuating and constantly changing while simultaneously remaining static, calm and peaceful. It would be hard for me to believe that anyone is good at all types of relationships because realistically, all types have their own set of difficulties. I am certainly not good at most types.
Except that, I have a really great relationship with the road (or trail).
To begin: the road isn’t somewhere I go just so I can eat ice cream. The road isn’t a punishment because I already ate the ice cream. This point is kind of moot because I don’t really like ice cream.
Everyone has a different relationship with the road. To me, the road is a friend and a source of support. The road is strength and endurance. There have been times when I have been out and I have excelled and the road has been part of every step of that. There have been times where I have collapsed, either due to my epilepsy or out of sheer exhaustion. When it has been from exhaustion, the road reminds me of my ability to persevere. I see the journey ahead of me and I am reminded of my desire to get up and keep going. When it has been because of my epilepsy, the road is still there waiting for me when I am ready to return to take those steps.
The road is not a static entity to me. It’s not just pavement or concrete or packed gravel. It’s not just one direction, a means to get from one place to another. It’s something I can count on. It’s something I can rely on. Whether it is for one kilometer or forty, the road is there to back me up. The road is not just a tool I use for running, it’s my co-conspirator. It’s my partner in crime. It in itself is a cheer team. If I run in the morning, the road is ready to get the day started. If I run in the evening (whether I had a good day or a bad day) the road is always ready to finish the day off.
A lot of people think of running as a chore or necessary evil. It might be an opportunity for socializing. To listen to music. To think about other life complications. Whatever the reason people run is the way we look at that relationship and how much that relationship will mean to us. We don’t have to run. There are social clubs. There are other ways to lose weight, get in shape, build cardio or get outdoors. It all depends on what you choose your goal is and how you want to develop that.
Right now, the road is calling to me. I can hear it. It’s been a couple of days since I laced up my sneakers and went out and already I can see it and want to be back. Not because of what I have eaten, not to socialize with people, not out of ambiguous guilt. I miss the road because when I am running, I am not alone. Even more than that, when I am running, I am with a friend. Every footfall has a different message “You can do this” “I’m here for you” “You’ve totally got this”. If I fall, the message is either “Get back up” or “That’s enough for today”.
This might be one of the weirdest posts I’ve ever written. Instead of being about how empowering I think running is, I’m discussing it in an almost theological sense. Yet, maybe that is why I have always found it empowering. The relationship I have with the road, with running, has been there for me through a lot of hard times and a lot of really great times.
I can’t explain it to anyone. What I can suggest is that the next time you go out on the road, whether you are running or walking, whether you are going somewhere or being out is the activity, no matter the reason: think about what the road means to you. Think about what you hear with each footstep. Think about why you went out in the first place. Maybe the idea and the importance of the relationship with the road aren’t so weird after all.