Running Away

Two weeks running, I turned up to class with my cabin-sized suitcase in tow. On the third week, my classmates looked at me questioningly. Where's your suitcase this time? their faces asked. "I'm not going anywhere this weekend," I responded, "but I am off again next weekend." Puzzled, they asked why I go away so much. Do you not like it here? I shrugged. I just go away a lot. I like airports. I like the thrill of touching down, the few seconds beforehand when the plane bumps up and down from the speed we're going creating friction between the air and the ground. I like being somewhere new, where my thoughts are not contained by the daily grind and the routine that inevitably develops.

Walking out of my (my is very loosely applied here) apartment building in New York City on the frostiest of mornings in one of the coldest winters they'd had in years, I remember seeing a man flash past me and into a jog. I looked quizzically at our doorman, who told me that said man always went on runs in this sort of cold. "Really?!" I exclaimed, "it's really cold." I looked down at my woollen coat sitting over two jumpers, and a thermal shirt, warm pants, two pairs of socks and wool-lined boots. Won't his sweat freeze? I wondered.

Sitting on a flight between New York and Chicago, I read the United Airways magazine in an attempt to stave off the desire to sleep. In it, I read an article about running around new cities. The author always went for a run when he first arrived in a new city. It didn't matter if it was cold or hot, night or day. On foot, he could explore at his own pace, stretch his aching body, and get a real sense of his new location. How do you know you won't end up in a "bad" area of town? I wondered.

Driving down the main road between Trede and Kumasi in Ghana, I saw one lone jogger smashing it out in the 37 degree, high humidity, heat. As I wiggled around in my seat, trying to find a way for the four-hour journey to our day's clinic more comfortable, I stared in awe. Isn't it a bit hot to be running? I thought.

Exercising on the cross-trainer at my own gym, I stared out at the pool and the park beyond. As my feet rhythmically went around and around, I yearned to be out exploring the world. I could see the buses in the distance taking people near and far. I could see friends wandering in the park. And I wished I could be out there, instead of in this sun-smart, heat-controlled environment. I had to stop making excuses.

This time, when I arrived at my destination, I put on my running shoes and went exploring. As my arms swung at my sides, I felt the twinge in my left shoulder from the tight muscles that hold up my handbag loosening. As I ran on, my eyes drank in the new town. My lungs burned as my body re-adjusted to the new physical demands. And then I fell into a comfortable rhythm. I could take in the beautiful views, enjoy the quiet streets. I smiled at the feeling of the wind cooling my warming exterior. As my calves began to ache, I kept telling myself to keep going. If I could take one step, I could take another and another. Mind over matter.

Running is a way to acquaint yourself with a state of mind. A way to connect your mind to your body. And running when away takes you to new places, physical and mental. Running gives you time away from technology and distractions. Time for your mind to clear and wander much further than your feet could ever take it. Running gives my mind the space to open my eyes to new ideas and opportunities.

I mightn't be running away from home, but I do run away from home. It's just that I always come back.


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