What am I looking for? That’s a question that zooms through my mind at 100 miles per hour while my legs and lungs struggle to catch up. I’m running from my daily stress, from being mommy, from being a girlfriend, from being a daughter, from being a friend, from being a sister. I’m running from deadlines—work deadlines, home deadlines, church deadlines. I’m running and I’m hoping to find myself by the time the three mile run comes to an end.
I took up running on a dare. A friend heard me casually referring to myself as a walker not a runner and dared me to push myself. He knew I would love it, I knew I would hate it and I did. My first run nearly killed me, at least it felt that way to me. My lungs were on fire, my calves hurt like crazy and I was sweating buckets. I wanted to quit three minutes in but I pushed on and finished running the one mile I had set as a goal. I’m a sucker for punishment because even though I absolutely hated every minute of that first run, I laced up my shoes the next day and ran again, and then again and again until I looked at my calendar and realized I had been running for an entire month—and surprisingly I was actually having fun.
In fact, I started looking forward to my runs because it meant having some precious “me time.” My days are spent cramming data into my brain—which one of the kids has an appointment and where, grab a gift for someone’s birthday party, remember to pick up bread and milk, check social media for recipes for next week’s menu, clean the house because someone’s having a sleep over, make sure you iron that shirt that someone needs for a ceremony tomorrow, take the car to the service place and oh, remember to pick up the kids from school today because the bus broke down and the school requires all parents to pick up their own kids. My brain just never ever turns off until I hit the open road at 5:00 p.m. on the dot and start my run.
The minute I put one foot in front of the other and inhale deeply, my body tells my brain to shut up. This is a “Marilyn only” zone and no noise is allowed. I’m not mom, I’m not a daughter, I’m not a sister, I’m not a friend. I’m just a girl up against three miles of open road and ready to conquer every inch of it and then it hits me—this is what I’m looking for. Myself. I spend so much time looking after everyone else and doing mundane activities that I lose myself every single day and that lost feeling accompanies me every hour until I run. When I run, I’m me. I silence all the voices in my head and I feel free. Liberated. Happy. That indescribable feeling of joy in self is what I’m looking for and I find it every single time I run and because of my run, I’m then able to be a better mother, girlfriend, sister, daughter, and friend.
Marilyn Lewis is a First Prize Winner of Sonima’s recent essay contest, in which we asked readers to tell us, “What are you looking for?”