I’m always amused when “Why we run” theories pop up and almost routinely the author launches into some anthropological treatise on survivalism and running long distances to track down prey. Maybe, just maybe, there is some validity to these theories, but whether putting one foot in front of the other is connected to some primal urge to avoid starvation or not, that is certainly NOT the reasoning I cite when asked why I run. Never do I imagine some ghostly prey (animal or human) just around the corner as I run down the canal, salivating at the thought of getting closer and closer, living out some imaginary primal hunter/hunted scenario. Nope, not even close.
I run for two words and two words alone. Exclamation. Points.
Long ago, in my more formulative and angst-ridden years of life’s considerations, I faced the inevitability of my mortality and after much struggle, casting off the absurdities of my catholic upbringing, I emerged with a reborn and intense new vision of the world, one where every second counted. Death lurks around every corner and all the same, so does life. I meant to take advantage of every moment.
From there I expanded on many of my already established extremist interests, understanding them to be an unconscious longing to make the most of my days, unwilling to give in to the passivity of daily drudgery and the oncoming days of adulthood. I revolted against stagnation, passivity and silence.
I started living in exclamation points.
I embraced my life with a newfound confidence, flaunting everything as if it would be my last chance. Politics. Music. Relationships. Activity. There was no reason to hold back….and it all still holds true. These extremisms took many forms as I moved through the years of my life, but always remained loud, exclaiming their reality to the world.
Most notably, my exclamation points were screamed through microphones as sweaty kids climbed and clamored on top of each other trying desperately to be heard at so many music venues and basement shows. We were the hardcore/punk scene and did everything as loud as we could. We screamed loud. We played loud. We loved loud. We fought loud. But unfortunately, as I grew older and perspectives became refined, those screams seemed more of desperation than passion and I found myself drifting away, seeking something else to fill that emotional release. I came up empty again and again.
The music still filled my life and the volume always stayed high, but the emotional release was gone. The politics remained as vigilant as ever, but the practices became tired and burdensome. Punk was dead and so was Anarchy. They just stunk of so much confusion and complexity and the exclamation points that made them so attractive seemed to be more play-acting than honest expressions of life and living. I needed to scale back.
Then suddenly I put one foot in front of the other and a rebirth took place. My body screamed, in pain, but my heart was screaming in joy, an exclamation I had long since forgotten. What was a fundamental part of my childhood joy growing up was lost to so much soul searching and attempts at finding something deeply genuine and passionate in the cerebral realm, when all along the life most lived remained purely in the physical.
I ran 5 miles with my breath rhythmically exhaling a pattern I hadn’t heard in 13 years, music to my ears. My lungs stretched in desperation and my legs resisted violently. My torso ground against itself like an antique machine breaking its rust free. But the emotional release that built and then spilled from its trappings as my body responded to a repetition long dormant was overwhelming. Something inside was screaming.
And it never quieted. To this day, 4 years later, I run for the intensity of the entire experience, the physical exclamation, the mental exclamation, the emotional exclamation. Because no cerebral success can ever match the intensity of a gaping mouth gasping for breath as lead-heavy legs turn over repetitiously and just when you think the end is imminent, you surge again to find a well of energy that seems almost superhuman, and your mind finds it impossible to comprehend the new boundaries of your body. This is when I feel most alive, when I know I’ve taken the bone of the day and sucked every last drop of marrow from it’s core, when I know in SOME way I’ve screamed as loud as I can.
This is every run, every physical effort that leaves me either filled with adrenaline or sprawled out in exhaustion. That is a life lived in exclamation points, loud and unceasing. And for me, there is no other way. I refuse to go quietly.
And THAT is why I run. To say I made the most of every opportunity available and played it as loud as I could.
I hope you do the same. Never trust the quiet ones…they always have something to hide.
Run loud. Live loud. Life in exclamation points.