50. Cleansing the Soul

50. Cleansing the Soul

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Cleansing the Soul

Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in removing tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring.
~Jimmy Carter

The crisp air stings my face. While I lace my shoe, she circles me with anticipation. The sun winks a sleepy greeting and I stretch my arms to the clouds above me. I breathe in the fragrant morning and exhale with intent. It’s time to begin. I move forward and she responds, taking the first steps in this well-practiced routine that never ends the way it begins. My footfalls are heavy next to hers. We struggle to find rhythm in this dance we’ve done a hundred times. Our warm breath escapes in front of us.

The smell of licorice tickles my nose while dawn creeps up on the still and silent Earth. The hillside glistens with dew; the skyline, freshly painted, meets the mountain’s outline. The colors are more vibrant than at any other time of the day. I’m breathing deeply, and I slow our pace. She is always too anxious in the beginning. I hear my shoes on the pavement and the clinking of her collar.

It isn’t long before we find our stride and move in unison. I feel my body lighten as the worry and stress of life falls from my shoulders and is carried away by the breeze. My faithful partner runs silently beside me, often glancing in my direction. Is she happy? Is this process as healing for her as it is for me?

Now moving as one, I loosen my hold on her leash. I relax and extend my limbs. Momentum carries us up and down the country hills effortlessly. I feel like I am floating and my mind is flooded with thoughts and ideas. I notice the sounds of birds now echoing in the trees. The sun has fully risen and beams down. Deer stand statuesque in the distance, watching us. I’m thankful for their quiet stance; she doesn’t notice them.

We follow our well-worn path and sometimes find a place of euphoria, unexplainable and intoxicating. Our pace quickens and the air no longer feels cold against my skin. We are lost in time. Time is not always my own, but in this moment, it is. Only I will say how far I go and how long I run. There are no interruptions. No demands on my time. When I run, I am not Mrs. or Mom. I am a writer, a runner. Limits only exist if I’ve set them for myself. She is content just being with me.

This moment carries me deeper into a sense of self. I feel I could run forever. However, life awaits my presence. We slow our pace and begin our journey back. Now, free of all burdens, I am inspired by the day; I am ready to take on all that life might throw in my direction. Slowing to a walk, I take a deep breath and release her. She hesitates to leave my side.

I whisper “go home.” She, so obedient, turns and runs up the drive.

As I take my final steps through this ritual, I reflect. I feel strong and energized. Renewed. Running, my addiction, has worked its cleansing magic on my soul once again. I am now ready to enjoy what I love most — being a wife and mother.

~Machille Legoullon

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