I’ve signed up for a half-marathon. The last one I did was 3 years ago. It marked the beginning of a chapter – an episode about teaching a subject I love (physics) in a country where I am a guest (the UK). In the end, I think I learned more about the unwritten rules of navigating another country’s educational system than my students learned about physics. I guess not all exchanges can be equal. But that chapter has ended for now. My final teaching day was last week. So, another long run, to mark the end of the chapter. Or perhaps the beginning of a new one.
I’ve run 5 marathons. For the first, I counted all the training miles. I wanted to run from a point where I felt lowest and farthest away from myself to a point I could call home. At the time, that distance was about 2,000 miles. It worked. Running 2,000 miles did bring me closer to home. During the long runs – somewhere about 10 miles in – I feel like I’ve finally reached my stride, I’ve entered a sacred space. It’s the training runs more than the race-day that I become addicted to. Marathons 2,3, and 4 punctuated that addiction. I loved the deep fatigue, the solitude, the independence and feeling of strength. And somewhere between marathons 4 and 5, my son arrived. Motherhood enlarged my world, changed my running. I stopped counting miles, timing practice runs, keeping a log. I ran for release, for joy, with the jogging stroller and without, to marvel at the world. I laced up my shoes and ran through blueberry fields, up big hills, through leafy suburbs, along old train tracks. When my son was almost two, he and his cousins cheered me on as I ran my 5th marathon. After a transatlantic move and the birth of our daughter, finding time to put on my shoes and do up the laces was scarce. But somehow, I still ran. Running acquired yet another dimension. It became a space to redefine myself and my boundaries. A time to dream a bit while my feet went on their merry way. A brief escape into anonymity. Perhaps I was slower because I wanted to savour the steps. And when I returned to teaching, the running gradually slowed, eventually stopped. I missed it.
And now? I’ve stepped out of the classroom and I stand at a crossroads. I’m not sure what comes next. Instead of waking early to prepare a lesson or mark papers, I wake early and put on my shoes. I slip out into the dawn chorus and head down the street. Soon I’m on a gravel lane, and then by a river. Above the sound of my shoes on the stones, I can hear the wind’s chords through the fields and the trees. Although the day may bloom into summer warmth, the morning is cool and easy. My legs are happy. They know this routine, they love this kind of play. They welcome me back. Even though it’s 5000 miles to the point I first ran towards and I’m headed in the opposite direction, I’m running towards home.