Grounded in a Different Reality
Memories fade into the steady rhythm of my run.
Up and down dusty mountain paths. Through fields. Past elk and hundreds of trees.
Near highways and houses that seem a world away, when they are really just a stone’s throw.
When I run, it’s a different place. A different reality. To me, more real than the place I found myself not a year ago.
Injured. Broken. Entire life turned upside down. Like a dream I have never woken from.
I used to run, climb and jump like it was nothing. For the sheer love of moving. Then suddenly, I couldn’t move at all. Suddenly, I had to work my way back from zero. Frist, a wobbly stand. Then, take a step. Then, stumble down the hall with a walker.
But that was then. Now, I can run, again.
There is still pain. Still healing. Still scars and memories that haunt me at night.
Running is not as easy as it once was. But I train hard, with dreams of my first full marathon.
Dreams of a triumphant comeback. Twice as far as I have ever gone, before.
I tell myself that’s what I run for.
But really, the training is an anchor. In a world that still seems a dream, it is familiar. Real. Visceral.
I run because it drowns out the memory of my own screams. Because it grounds me.
The smell of dusty earth, a reminder that world is still the same.
The elk glancing up at my presence, a reminder that I still exist.
The aching legs, a reminder that my body is still working, even if not as well as before.
I forget my worries, my sorrows, my interrupted career, and just run.
Again, and again. Farther and faster.
Until the day I stand at the starting line of a full marathon. Fall into the practiced rhythm as the buzzer sounds.
This time, my steps pound over asphalt. People and cars replace elk and trees.
But the run is still the same. Ignore the crowd. Ignore the noise. Keep the pace I practiced over a million footfalls.
Last year, I could barely stand. Now I’m here.
Not the fastest, not the slowest. Just another face in the crowd,
But I know what I overcame to get here, and that motivates me to keep going.
I push through hours of single-minded focus, to pass the finish line.
I came back from it all. Fought thorough all the pain and doubt to cross that line.
But as my exhaustion wears off and my breath steadies, I find I don’t feel any different.
What I imagined as a great comeback, fizzles into another name in the crowd.
I feel little elation or sense of victory.
I’d wanted to prove to myself that I was better. Back to what I used to be.
But I will never go back. Things will always be harder than they once were.
The marathon, full of people and cheering and electrolyte drinks, it ended up just being another run. Another moment with only myself and the steady beat.
Maybe I didn’t run for the marathon. For a comeback or recognition or a record of my time.
Maybe I ran just because I still could.
Maybe, that’s enough.