He was a runner by nature.
It wasn’t his bones and muscles that made him so, nor was it his lung capacity or VO2 max. And it certainly wasn’t his 6’4″ frame. No, this running was deeper than that — it was in his head… or maybe even his heart? It was difficult for him to sit still. To stay in one place was to defy something deep within his constitution. His mind was constantly running laps, all the while forgetting to count the number of times it had passed the starting line. It’s impossible to keep score that way, you know. You can never be sure of the distance you’ve traveled. But then again, you’ve not traveled anywhere if you’re only going in circles.
He’d run circles before. On a track in high school… his sophomore year. He wasn’t slow, a 10:37 his best on the 2-mile, and a 4:59 on the one. But he was growing weary of it. He felt like all those laps around the same track were getting him nowhere. Not that destination was his reason for running. No, destination wasn’t nearly as important as the journey itself. But the track held neither. It was about time and nothing more. How can you measure a life only in time? Such a one-dimensional assessment seems foolish and shallow, if not plain dishonest.
- “He didn’t run far, and he arrived at absolutely nowhere, but dang if he didn’t do it fast.”
- “He was a selfish and mean old cuss who never loved no one, but dang if he didn’t live a long time.”
He would often remember Jim, a friend who died in a cliff-diving accident in college. Jim had experienced more life in his few years than many a man blessed to see 80. What really is time, if in the end it all runs out? Certainly not a yardstick with which to measure one’s life. He and Jim had never once run together, the latter preferring a mountain bike. But still he knew he’d be chasing Jim for a lifetime.
It’s a well-known fact you can’t chase someone on a treadmill. Is it even considered running, what you do on a treadmill? I mean you are literally going nowhere. No, he’d never be caught running on a machine. Rather a horse chasing a rabbit in circles, than a hamster trapped in a cage, attempting with his own feet to convince his mind of its freedom. But he’d resign himself to neither.
No, freedom can’t be had on a treadmill or a track. Nor can it be found on a clock. There’s a constant quarrel between time and freedom, each seeking to eliminate the other and prove its supremacy once and for all. But this fight is futile; neither can exist outside the other. Each of us will experience time’s cold knock on his door, no matter what freedoms we’ve enjoyed before its morbid echoes call forth the end of a journey. And a clock unliberated is nothing more than days hopelessly etched on the wall of a prison cell, a reminder of life without parole.
He felt all those laps around the same track were getting him nowhere. He would wonder later if he’d continued on the team, might it have taken him somewhere — to college on scholarship, maybe? But four years at the same university?! You can’t stay too long in one place when your mind’s already moved on to other things.
His mind was always running ahead of his body. Was it creativity, vision, expectation — or merely discontent — that propelled him forward so? He didn’t know, and might never. But he ran. It was his nature.
(To be continued…)