Few things in the world are more beautiful to me than a Midwest sky on a clear night. The undeniable tranquility of being guided by the light of the moon and stars and listening to the rhythm of my breath and footsteps brings me into a state of reverie that I can only achieve while running. I am brought back to places and times in my life that have already passed and forward to things that are yet to be.
I am a morning runner- always have been and always will be. It is rare that I run in the evening and in such instances, more often than not, the only thing that keeps me accountable to the commitment of an evening run is having a partner to meet. One of my friends asked me yesterday if I wanted to run after work this evening. I agreed.
We met at dusk and ran our usual loop around the lake. For the first couple of miles, we chatted about our days, last weekend, and what is going on in our lives. We commented on the extraordinarily warm weather (64 degrees today!) and shared our racing plans for the year ahead. Then we fell into silence, running alongside one another, each of us entrenched in her own thoughts.
I was brought back to a remote village in northeastern Bulgaria, where the night sky had a way of enveloping me in a sea of twinkling stars. In the summertime, the crickets chirped and packs of stray dogs barked in the distance. In the winter, the snow that covered empty tree branches glistened in the moonlight. The potholed roads and dirt paths were lined with street lamps that only seemed to function when the mayor was running for reelection; otherwise, the sky lit the way.
The sound of a bike bell from behind, beckoning me to move to the right, awoke me from my daydream, but only momentarily. I returned to my thoughts as my friend and I pushed on, one foot in front of the other. We were now running along a rather busy street on the south edge of downtown, yet I barely noticed the cars and lights around us. I tuned them out and was transported back to Lexington, Virginia, where, as a university student, I seized the opportunity to run in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains whenever I could. I was running my favorite route again- Knuckles, we called it. Six miles of rolling hills and peace and quiet. I once ran Knuckles at three o’clock in the morning because I couldn’t sleep. It was safe to do that there. Lexington is that kind of place.
We crossed our five mile finish line tonight with a strong push to the end. We were proud of our pace- about 8:40 per mile. We walked a quarter of a mile back to my friend’s car and wished each other a good evening. I ran the remaining mile or so back toward my apartment, though I wasn’t quite ready for my run to be over.
I passed my apartment building and continued east toward the Iowa State Capitol. I saw two guys running about a tenth of a mile ahead of me. I can take them, I thought. I sped up, and I caught up to them. I passed them. Up the hill- push, push- to the left, and up the capitol steps toward the golden dome. I noticed the same two guys running up the steps behind me… something about Rocky, they were saying. I smiled to myself. At the top of the steps, I turned around and looked down at the city before me, all lit up. I was on top of the world. I felt empowered, grounded, and at peace. Simplicity in its purest form. Moments like that are extremely rare for me. I wanted to hold on to this one for as long as I could. It brought me back to ninth grade English class. Maya Angelou.
“I’m a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
Thank you for reading!