I was asked recently how I handle “the pain” of running and exercising to the point of muscle failure by a very close friend. She said that when she feels the pain, her body wants to stop, and curious by my seemingly endless energy, she wanted to understand it.
I replied simply with my regular, “I love it. I love that feeling of movement.”
She laughed, “How? Doesn’t it hurt?”
I hesitated a moment because I hadn’t thought of it that way in a year. I considered the burning in my lungs when I sprint around the track in the chilly air, the feeling of a torrential downpour of icy rain beating against my pink, quickly numbing skin, the wind pushing against me, the hot feeling of sweat sneaking its way behind my eyelids, not being able to speak through ill moving lips, stiff with cold, the clear, intimate sound of my heart’s methodical drumming in my ears.
I came to this conclusion.
No. It doesn’t hurt. It feels like…life. When the frigid air rushes from the world through my lips, down my throat, and into my lungs, leaving them raw in its icy path, I feel the life in me erupt in pleasure. I become one with my body, in tune with each movement, each change in temperature, each twinge of effort. Its as though I’ve left my position as passive reader and become the omniscient protagonist describing in detail the scene from each and every muscle’s point of view. Suddenly parts of me of which I rarely think, become major players. I notice my toes, the way the hair on my arm reacts to the wind, the burning in my shins with each strike, the slightly tugging extension of my arches before I plant, the pressure on the balls of my feet as I push off, the melody of my ventricals playing life’s tune in step.
Becoming aware of these senses, embracing them, and even searching to make them more pronounced has caused me to seek more “pain.” There is no moment in which I feel more alive than that in which my heart is racing, and my own effort is what is keeping me moving with nothing but internal functions involuntary. The awareness makes me smile, and the more “pain” I feel, the more aware I become, creating in me an overwhelming joy at being able to feel the burning sensation in my muscles, stretching my smile, often making me skip, yelp, or even break into uproarious laughter in appreciation of life.
That is when I feel luckiest. To have the ability to run, jump, dance, burn, and reach muscle failure. Everything movement. is. a. gift. My mind, while focusing on the pleasure of the sensation of life, brings me, with the same unadulterated, pure awareness to the fact that my ability to do these things is mine still because men who tried to kill me failed epically. It’s mine although it has been taken from so many. And then I feel blessed, almost guiltily so. Being conscious of this valuable gift of movement drives me to celebrate it as fully as possible for both myself and for those who aren’t able.
Therefore I run.