I used to think that I loved running because it made me free.
But lately, the runs have been harder. Not any less satisfying, just harder to get into. Harder to enjoy. It’s not that my runs have changed, but the purpose.
Lately, I’ve been running to get away from people. I’m not quite sure how this happened.
I do the long run in the middle of the week, to avoid people. Sometimes, there are other trail users. Horses always get the right of way, mountainbikers have to yield to me. But I automatically get out of the way for everyone. Even here, I worry about taking up space.
During an exchange in a mountainbiking board, some proudly stated that while they notice bicycle models, they never notice the color of the riders. Bullshit. Because you notice when the great majority of people you meet on the trail do not look like you.
I try to run through the tightness in my chest. It’s all seasons and flows. Months ago, this trail was a lush green, with yellow wildflowers. Now, it’s dry and brown. A good reminder that Los Angeles is a desert after all.
If I let it, somewhere around this dead tree, my anger lifts. Sports psychologists call it flow time. I whisper a request to any tree-dwelling spirits, Makikiraan lang po.
I notice once again the life on this trail. The red ants with painful stings.
The snakes. (sorry, I was too nervous to take a picture)
The caw-cawing black birds who inspire with their ability to ride the wind.
I feel anger and sadness that their lives are such a struggle.
The coyotes spend daylight in the brown grass. Sometimes, you can hear them huff as you run past their hiding spaces. When the sun sets, they emerge onto the trail, greeting one another in joyful song. Defiantly alive.
Some hikers regret that our trail has few deer and migrating ducks. But I root for the snakes and coyotes. Perhaps it’s my tendency to identify with the “wrong” characters in literature and movies. Like Grendel’s mother. Roy Batty. Caliban.
And rooting for Caliban reminds me that I’m not as disconnected as I thought. That there are people to whom I feel strongly accountable. And there are beautiful allies who run this trail with me.
It’s these thoughts that get me up that last hill.
I am a transplant to this city and this country. I’ve always felt somewhat apart from it. But more and more, I feel like I’m a part of it too.
The best runs end with this defiant joy.
Inspired by bfp’s amazing (re)thinking walking series. Mga kabayan, please check it out. What do your journeys look like in Manila, Bacolod, Laguna? In Hongkong, London, Jeddah?