I’m running in the night, my feet slapping the pavement. My breath is ragged, my lungs burning, but still I run. The air is cold like ice, cutting my throat as it tears in and out. But my heart is beating hard, pumping blood like fire through all my veins into every inch of skin. I am warm, and my skin radiates heat and steam and sweat into the freezing darkness.
I run, and leave my stress behind. Every obstacle, every failure, is a mile away, the distance growing with every step. The worries of every tomorrow no longer have a hold on me. I have broken free, and moved ahead. Alone in the darkness, I am unshackled.
I reach the end too soon. There are limits to the road, and limits to my strength. I stop, but not entirely. I keep walking, breathing hard, and moving ahead. Here, where there are no people and no messes to clean up, where the air is fresh, I can think. I can think about life in all its complexity, all its trials and joys, and reduce it to an equation. Numbers on a page, a logic puzzle, a simple list of facts. On that level I can deal with it.
Step by step, I work it out, and the houses of town grow closer. I develop plans, and the quaint little boxes with their well-lit windows and their steep, snow-covered roofs rise up before me. My heart beats against my chest, not yet recovered from my earlier exertion. As it races, so my mind races. But my legs move slow, trembling from freezing sweat and use after long neglect.
I come level with the first house of the neighborhood, and break into running again. Not a full-on sprint, but a steady pounding on concrete. I am going for distance. No great distance, but long enough for me. I stretch and push my limits, and the night flies past. It is cold– far colder than I had anticipated. And the only way out is to run. I grin between breaths, because I knew this would happen. I would get out here, and it would be cold, and the only way to escape it would be to push myself one step farther.
So I run. But I no longer run away. I run to. I run to the extra step, to the record broken, to the new horizon, and to the next second shaved away. I run back to my problems, fueled by adrenaline and a moment of escape. I run back to my mistakes, with the knowledge and the drive to correct them. And I run back into a world of hopes and dreams and second chances. I run back, because the world is ahead. As home gets close and I grow weak once more, unable to take another step, I silently mock my weariness and start sprinting. It’s a short, clumsy sprint. But not long ago, I did not have the drive even to run.