I used to run. Five or more times a week. Four to eight miles each day. Life used to happen while I was running.
I would drive out to Folly Beach. Park in an open lot near 2nd or 3rd streets and walk out through the dunes toward the water. I’d usually go right first, toward the pier. I’d run until the beach ended. Until there was nowhere left to go.
I’d stop there and just take in the view. All sea oats and foamy peaks and glittering water and nothing more. I’d give myself a minute, maybe two. Sometimes I’d even stop my iPod and just listen.
Then I’d turn around and go back. On good days I’d even go past where I parked, toward the water tower, picking up some extra miles along the way.
The last quarter-mile or so I’d gradually increase my pace until I was all out sprinting as I crossed a mental finish line. Hearing the voice of my old track coach in my head with every stride, “Finish strong, Shelnutt!”
On the way home, I’d ride with my windows down the whole way, no matter what temperature it was outside. It was the runner’s high. An incredible feeling. A euphoria. An overwhelming state of absolute satisfaction.
Somehow, the habit that I loved so much didn’t hold. I lost it along the way. I moved away from the beach. Tried running downtown, in gyms, in parking lots. I tried trails and bridges. I found partners and lost partners. I bought new sneakers. Ran 5k’s and 10k’s and half marathons. But I never could get back to that place.
Where running wasn’t exercise. It was just my time. A gift. It was a moment of therapy. A moment of glory. A moment of peace and pain at the same time. A moment where I just loved myself. I was strong and nothing else mattered.
Today, I haven’t run in months. My running shoes are old and filthy. My playlist, out of date. My sports bras and shorts hardly fit anymore. But today, I’m lacing up again. Today, I’m going to run. And again tomorrow. And again the day after that.
So hopefully, one day weeks or months from now, I’ll be able to find that place. And life will once again happen while I’m running.