People ask me sometimes why I run.
And I wish I could show them the snapshot of this morning now, each time they ask.
It was warm in the house, and Bon Iver was rolling out in waves over the Bluetooth speaker in the front room. I was turning pancakes on the griddle and the kids were crafting on the island - making slime from toothpaste and glue and hot gluing tiny pieces of cardboard together...
It was hard taking that first step outside. It's like waking up - that first blast of cold air that hits. The pup was high-stepping in the cold, re-smelling all his spots. And we started out slowly, slowly into the woods. But as we ran, we slid into a steady rhythm: step step step breathe step step step breathe, my muscles starting to ease into the movements. And a mile or so out it starts to snow. Big fat fairy snowflakes are coming down and catching in my eyelashes and the dog's fur. And the pup is stopping every 50 feet to jump up and try to catch the flakes in the air. And he's smiling. Don't tell me dogs don't smile. This pup, with his tongue hanging half out of his face, with that slightly maniacal gleam in his eye as he runs, he smiles. And we run on, our breath coming harder in deep gulps of freezing air. And as we forge on, in fits and starts, the snow turns harder, icier. And we're being pelted with small ice flakes. and we RuN. Don't let that dog fool you - he's a runner. That dog might just be my spirit animal - slow and lazy most days, but a runner at heart, when his feet hit the trail.
And the ice-snow comes down harder and my thighs start to burn we're running so hard - leaping fallen branches and dodging trees on the trail, and I swear to you that dog is still smiling, his tongue trailing back behind him like a slobbery banner. And as the house is in sight he pulls up hard, for no reason. And I stumble, barely catching myself, and sit hard on the packed, hollow-sounding earth of the trail. And we sit, silently, side by side, for the space of time it takes for the cold to completely seep into my running tights and my skin and deep into my sit bones. And we breathe and watch the ice-snow fall between the tangled branches above us. And we breathe slower and softer as we sit, not quite ready to stop, to return to the warmth and the tepid coffee and the half-eaten bone that await us. Not quite ready to give up the cathedral of the run just yet.
I run because something inside me tells me I need to.
I run because I feel more alive when I do.