The World Is Your Trail

Jedediah Bila

By Jedediah Bila

Politics can certainly be draining. Sometimes you pull your hair out wondering if there’s anyone honest left to vote for. It’s often the case that the more news you read, the scarier the world around you begins to look. Perhaps you feel like there’s way too much fixing to do and far too little time in which to do it.

I know those feelings all too well. And I’m not going to pretend like I have some magical recipe for how to avoid them or some top-secret list of trustworthy candidates to unveil.

Instead, I’m going to share with you what I do when I feel like I can’t ingest another political bite, when it’s time to rebuild me . . . on the inside . . . so I can face it all again with renewed focus and a nourished spirit.

So, come run with me . . .

There’s just something about running that’s different.

It’s a special kind of exhaustion, an extraordinary out-of-breath experience that reminds you that you can do a heck of a lot more than you ever thought possible. And that feeling when you’re done, when you walk off the intensity of that final stretch, rediscover the depths of your lungs, and land on your living room couch with a smile and a sigh . . . is priceless.

I remember the days of high school track. I wasn’t a very committed runner back then, as I was too busy being a nerd. I missed a whole lot of practices and would show up at the races with little or no preparation. Even so, I learned some of my greatest life lessons on the hills of Van Cortlandt Park.

I learned that if you speed ahead too quickly in this life, you’ll likely run out of steam and never get to where you’d like to go. Patience and timing are everything. I learned that if you have too much pep in your stride at the end of a challenge, you’ll hit the finish line with a whole lot of wasted power. When the end is in sight, show them what you’ve got. You never know where it might lead you. I learned that scrapes, bruises, and tired lungs should never prevent you from hustling through that last quarter mile of sand or making your way up that final hill, even if you have to sing cheesy songs or envision an ice cream sundae the whole darn time. It’s the hills and valleys that will test us the most. Don’t spend your life on the ease of flat land, or you’ll never know the ecstasy of hitting the top and galloping down the other side.

In my post-high school days, I’d come to value the added kick in your stride you gain from practice. I’d come to feel empowered by that search for my next breath, by the knowledge that what didn’t break me would make me that much stronger. I’d revel in my once-per-week run, a welcome departure from spin and the weight room, knowing that it is only in those strides that my endurance would be truly tested. And it certainly has been.

I have to admit that busy Manhattan streets, and even the far more picturesque windings of Central Park, aren’t exactly the pavements I’d like to be pounding. I often find myself daydreaming of New England trails or what it must feel like to devour pristine air with some of nature’s most gorgeous mountains before me. But I guess there’s something unique that these city runs teach you.

You learn to shut it all out, to block everything but the beating of your heart, the pattern of your breath, the motion of your stride, and the very intimate bond between you and the pavement that lies ahead. And amid all the chaos that surrounds you, you come to understand that this is your journey, your race to win. And if the whole world crumbles around you, you must find a way to fight to the finish.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to running, and an old knee injury from one too many squats sometimes gets in my way. But I’ll never stop loving that feeling, that knowledge that I came, I saw, and I conquered.

The world is your trail. For some reason, it’s only when I’m running that I remember that. Find whatever it is that will make you remember, too.

And the next time you pick up that newspaper, hear yet another distressing statistic, or feel the betrayal of having worked your tail off to get someone elected who lied to your face, step away from it all and embrace whatever it is that has the power to reawaken your soul when you need it most.

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12 years ago

So true. I take a walk around the campus at lunchtime and talk to the Lord and thank him for the beauty he surrounds us with in the myriad of flowers, fountains, and shrubs. Nothing like a relaxing walk to refresh your spirit and mind for the rest of the days work. Sure enjoy your column.

Jeffrey Denning
12 years ago

Nice work. Refreshing. Thanks!

12 years ago

I agree! Great column!

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