As soon as I make the decision to finally go, the sun slips behind the cotton ball clouds. Sunshine that promised at least residual warmth has eluded me again. The wind outside whips the dry, multicolored leaves into mini tornadoes that travel eastward down the street in front of my house. The temperature gauge reads 47 degrees. Lies. All lies. We step out of the front door, both shiver, and I start to second guess the black mesh shorts and orange UnderArmor sweatshirt. I know the rule of thumb is to dress like it is 20 degrees warmer. I’m not sure that rule applies to today. It is downright cold. And the lack of sun does not help.
We take off, a short bouncy jog. This is not about speed. It is about exercise. Moving. Being together.
My escape is not one place, though it can often be the same one. Most of the time, it starts at my front door and follows a path that only my feet and my state of mind allow it to pursue– sometimes 4 miles, often 5, occasionally 7 or 8 or 9.
Most of the time it is simply a neighborhood loop: nice and easy, mindless. Today it is just that.
If I run by myself, I usually listen to music. At first it was pace-pounding upbeat popular music to help me ignore the things racing through my mind. It is easy to forget with my friends Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Rhianna screaming nonsense in my brain. But I have graduated to slower, more mellow sounds: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Carpenters, and Peter, Paul and Mary. They are slower, more pensive. These songs allow me to mull over my thoughts instead of suppress them. Though these songs have probably cost me more than a minute in pace over time, the calmness they provide far outweigh a PR in running. I’m nearly 36. I’ll never win a race. I’m never going to be good. It isn’t about that. It is about coaxing this body into movement when I swear it is genetically programmed for the opposite.
Lately I have taken to running with my wife.
We try to talk about things. It doesn’t generally last very long. Instead we fall into a labored breathing rhythm, punctuated with heavy, slapping footsteps. Occasional grunts and comments escape our lips, fragments of where we have allowed our minds to roam in the moment. But conversations rarely ever form.
Out of respect for each other, we opt to forgo the headphones on these paired runs. And we both admit that neither of us misses them. There is something about running side by side in comfortable silence. Neither of us try too hard to entertain the other. We are just there, in tandem, escaping all the things we know we should be doing, and quickly shedding our guilt at putting ourselves first for that very moment in time.
With every deep breath exhaled, a bit more of the stress, of the frustration we feel, releases into the air around us. I don’t see our breath today, but I imagine it floating out, carrying with it all we pen up inside.
And that is my true escape: a silent run with the only person in my life where silence has finally become comfortable.