The Runner’s Dilemma: A Story

Author’s Note: I am not a runner, and I probably never will be. My body isn’t made for running. But running is a good metaphor for journeys, and like many others, though I may not run, I still take many journeys in life, some with my body, some with my mind, and some with my heart. The below came to me this morning while driving to work, a journey in itself, as I reflected not on that journey, but on the greater journey of life, and how we get through it: one step at a time.

He had prepared for this for so long, so precisely; yet nothing was going as planned.

For years, he trained on a predictable track, its curves coming at regular intervals, its flatness something he didn’t have to think about. He trained on the perfect days, not too hot, not too cold, just the right amount of moisture in the air to stay refreshed without feeling oppressed. He was so prepared for the marathon. He knew it was coming, and he spent what seems a lifetime getting ready for it.

Now the day of the marathon was here, and nothing was going according to plan. The course was changed at the last minute. The predictable curves were now unknown turns, the hills and valleys mysteries. The course was scattered with potholes, as if God himself dropped them randomly from the sky. The weather was oppressively hot, with a harsh wind blowing loose dirt and debris, a humidity that made the air itself heavy to run through and breathe.

He wanted to give up, yet he found himself standing there, at the starting line, with countless others. His mind told him that this is crazy, that it can’t be done. But when the gun went off to mark the start of the race, his body reacted, putting one foot in front, then the next, as he found his stride. His mind told him to stop, unconvincingly, as his body kept moving, perhaps out of muscle memory, perhaps just to keep up with the mass around him.

As he moved forward, he saw people around him, some struggling, some unfazed by the changing events. The weather shifted as the course shifted, each turn bringing a new unexpected challenge. His mind kept thinking, this is crazy, I can’t do this, yet his body kept moving.

This went on for some time, the debate between mind and body, until his body started complaining. It was getting to be too much, the fatigue was beginning to set in. His body was not prepared for what he was doing.

He was about to give up when he looked around and his mind realized something: I’m already come so far. At that point, things changed. His mind found inspiration, and it tool control of the body, telling it not to focus on the entirety of the journey, but to focus on the next step… and the next… and the next…

And the body obeyed. It put one foot in front, then the next, continuing its stride, as the team of mind and body continued on to the finish line.

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