The blare of the alarm fills my room as I scramble to shut it off before waking any of my roommates. Once off, the apartment is silent. Just the sound of cars going by and the hum of the air conditioning accompany my breathing. I pull the blinds aside and see the hazy edge of the sun on the horizon.
I could go back to sleep, I could take five more minutes, but I don’t. I throw the covers off and instantly get hit with a wave of goose bumps. My feet swing over the edge of my bed and I push my body up, feeling the imprint of my body still in the mattress, watching the imprint of my head get consumed by my pillow. I blink a few more times before standing up, and take the first few steps of the day, feeling the stiffness of last nights sleep begin to disintegrate. My feet hit the cold concrete floor as I get closer to the bathroom, and I slowly pull open the door and run inside.
It’s so early, I tell myself. Normal people don’t do this; normal people don’t feel like this.
I splash my face and tell myself to wake up. The cold water drips down my neck and the goose bumps come back.
I go back into my room and pick up my clothes from where I left them the night before, then go back to the bathroom. I slowly pick at a banana while putting clothes on. I double check the weather while tying my shoes and throw the banana peel in the trash as I walk through the kitchen.
Silence fills the air.
The steady sound of my breathing comforts me in the piercing silence of the early morning. I walk out my door and lock it behind me, then clutch my key and my phone as I walk down the stairs of my back porch. I breathe in the morning mist and enjoy the colors of the sun that are slowly painting the sky, kissing it good morning. I bend over and touch my toes, then slowly roll my body up, reaching as high as possible with my arms. I let out a yawn.
I jog in place a little, kicking my legs up in front of me and opening my hips. I crack my back and look at the time. 6:24 a.m. Just half an hour, I tell myself. Get through half an hour, which should be good enough. Listen to your body, run the other half later. Just 30 minutes. That’s 15 out then turn around. That’s not bad at all.
One foot moves in front of the other, then faster and faster. I make a right turn out of my driveway and follow the sidewalk until I get to the corner, then turn right again. All of a sudden my pace has quickened from a brisk walk to a slow jog to a decent pace. When I turn the corner the wind hits me, but I quickly adjust and regulate my breathing. In and out, in and out. A lone car goes by the silent side street I am running on, and a street light flickers before shutting off.
My only company is the steady pounding of my feet against the pavement and my even, subtle breath.
My legs hurt.
This is hard, getting up every single morning and running no matter what my body feels like. Some days are harder than others, but every day proves to be a struggle as I battle with the possibility of sleeping in and just going on the elliptical later in the afternoon. But every day proves to be a victory as I pull myself out of bed and onto the streets, celebrating with this quiet period to my thoughts and myself.
I turn left and cross the street, taking joy in the crunch of the soft path beneath my legs. What a relief to get off the pavement for a bit. I look to my right and see the river, calm and gentle.
I look in front of me and see the sky exploding, orange and red and purple and pink. Flickers of gold spread out in rays, making a beautiful pattern. I lift my knees a little higher as I cross a bridge, and my breath catches in my throat as I marvel at the beauty of the sunrise reflecting on the water. I watch my breath make a tiny cloud that disappears quickly, a sign of the chilly air.
The pain disappears as I bask in the beauty of this earth and these early mornings. The soreness in my legs and the exhaustion in my body and my soul are nothing compared to the overwhelming love I have for watching the earth come alive each morning, for watching the beauty of the planet fill my tiny town with a sight that looks like a painting.
Every morning is different, but every morning is so beautiful.
My pace quickens and suddenly I have no feeling in my legs, I have just the numb burning in my lungs as I open my stride and become lighter on my feet.
I am running.
I am flying.
Suddenly half an hour has gone by and I slow at the archway of trees that marks my turning point. I’ve already gone further than expected. Time seems to fly but not as fast as me. I put my hands on my knees and push my body up and turn back towards home, then move my feet in the rhythmic beauty once again. I am outrunning time, I am outrunning the burdens of the days that seem to weigh me down, adding to the pain I felt earlier. I daydream, I picture myself racing with people cheering. I picture myself smiling and laughing and enjoying the moment I am in.
But wait, that’s right now.
In this moment, I am happy. Plain and simple, purely, blissfully happy. Thoughts come in then float away without the satisfaction of being acknowledged. My jaw tightens as the brisk air continues to take a toll on my underdressed body, begging for a blanket when
I’m just wearing a t-shirt. The sweat on my arms sends chills down my spine as it evaporates into the cold air. I focus on my eyelashes, fluttering in front of me as I focus on the street in front of me.
I have found my salvation.
The town seems to come alive, as more and more cars whiz by me. Some honk, others go on their way without paying my any interest. The sun becomes a glowing ball behind me, casting a long shadow onto the sidewalk. I cross the street and pass another person. Another sign of life, signifying my solitary time is almost up. I begin to see familiar sights, signs of home being near. I turn and approach the bridge again, and power across, feeling strength come with each step. I fly down the street, my breath quickening, the music of my feet becoming louder. Louder. Faster.
I make one final turn and see the trunk of my car in my distant driveway. Nothing else matters in this moment, not the nagging fire in my calf muscles nor the tightness in my lungs, begging for me to stop. I sprint and allow myself to enjoy the strength this moment brings me. I cross into my driveway and slow down, my form becoming sloppy as my arms fall limp to my sides and I slouch over. My hands meet my slightly bent knees once again and I drop my head, as beads of sweat fall into the space between my feet on the ground. Cars continue to go by and birds begin to chirp. A few horns blare and busses come to a screeching halt. My neighbor comes down her stairs and unlocks her car.
I stand up and slowly make my way to the stairs that lead to my door, and trudge up them. I unlock my door and quietly open it, trying to not disturb my roommates. As I pull it closed behind me, I see the sun reach its peak and in slow motion, turn on and lighten up the world.
The music made by my run still plays in my ears. The words still speak to my heart. It may be hard but it’s always worth it. Seeing myself blessed with a fresh start, a fresh mind and a passion fueled by each step is incomparable. Today is a new day, a new opportunity to find strength and purpose.
I smile knowing I just did.