“You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.” --Joel Chandler Harris (Disney interpretation.)
Thirty years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with Uncle Remus. An ill-fated attempt at the 880 in fourth-grade track had given me to believe that running was its own brand of trouble. Sore shins, aching legs, burning lungs, a stitch in the side – who needed it?
Now, running ties me to an immediacy where my troubles have no place. The tension over scheduling, the school form that I’m sure is somewhere on the kitchen table, the past due bill lurking at the edges of my bank account, the fact that we “never have anything good for breakfast", patients that refuse to improve despite my best efforts, the chapter that is jammed somewhere between my brain and keyboard, the expenditures of time and money on a “hobby” that shows no sign of contributing to the family income or well-being, the urgently needed health-certificate that I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten to sign – these bogeymen have no place in the morning run. Reality centers in the soles of my shoes as they slap the asphalt, in the brush of my breath against my ribs, in the melting sun like sap against my skin, in the rustle and buzz in the wild oats and yellow-star that line the shoulder, in the smeared carcasses of road-kill rattle snake that give new import to the noise in the brush, in the smell of humid earth and distant horse. Finances, husband, children, friends, work, words remain at home. Like the shadow in Stevenson’s poem, they have “stayed at home behind me and [are] fast asleep in bed.”
On occasion, I invite my life to run with me. “Come on,” I say. “You’re welcome to join me, but you have to keep up.” Some things drop quickly behind, exhausted. Others keep pace with me, and we jog toward the hills in a sort of uncertain truce. By the end of the run, I have befriended these thoughts, fears, and uncertainties. Monsters hold far less terror after 2 or 3 miles. I think most of their size comes from water-weight.
In deference to Uncle Remus, I concede that perhaps we can not escape our troubles by running, but I would submit that a little exercise tames them.