The soft chirping of birds at my windowsill woke me from my deep slumber, their rousing hymns infusing my dull mind as I washed and performed my ablutions. Lacing myself into nothing more than my battered pair of New Balances and a pair of running shorts, I stepped out into the grey light that comes before dawn and glided down the road towards the woods past my house, my feet never pausing in their cadence, my bare torso cool against the gentle breeze.
On and on I ran, the miles bending behind me in a flash as I entered the woods, shining with the green of crisp leaves and the smell of fresh dew, and flew through the landscape alongside beautiful speckled deer who put my strides to shame with their graceful prance, the birds flying over my path and the connecting river flowing beside me, the clear blue water offering a reflection of my steady clip as I zoomed by. The smooth, packed dirt under my feet reverberated with my every step, and the trees beckoned me forward as I traversed over hill and forest, easing myself into the rhythm that would guide me through my day. In the soft mist before the sunrise, before the morning, I found true peace.
As a cross country and track and field athlete, I had suffered a major sense of continuity from the unending burden of three consistent seasons throughout the year, an unremitting cycle of training and racing that had sapped me of the joy I had of running through a monotonous system that measured progress in seconds, minutes and hours spent perfecting my craft, without a moment for the appreciation of the task itself in its desire for nothing less than optimal results.
I needed a reminder of why I continued to pursue this sport, what drove me to arise every morning for nothing less than a sacrifice of my body for each session. I needed to remember that running was not just about miles and workouts, not just about practices and conditioning and ice baths and races. I needed a reminder that the true beauty of running was in the ability to explore, to see the world with one's own eyes and appreciate the value of nature's allure and soar across the skies to new heights of self-discovery, so that I could thank God for blessing me with the gifts I had been bestowed upon to appreciate the moment.
It was in these moments, flying through the green in a cloud of mist, without a watch to time me or a coach to direct me, without an impending sense of routine or regimen to orient me, that I was able to once again appreciate the value of running in itself and detach myself from my realities to find peace in the now. It was here, in these woods with absolute stillness and pure silence, that I was able to once again appreciate the beauty of nature and the thrill of adventure that led me to the sport as a naive 15-year-old.
It was in that moment, as I ran alongside deer and over hills and rivers through the woodlands in the light before dawn and the misty haze before the morning, that I was able to once again fall in love with nature's allure and appreciate the beauty of God's creation, not worrying about what happened or what would happen, but appreciating the now.