In The Shadows
Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
Silhouettes subtly hint of living forms in the distance of night. What is obviously a bush in daylight could be anything my imagination prompts it to be in the shadow of darkness that surrounds me. That shady mass beside the road could be a nocturnal creature, and I hope it is more afraid of me than I am of it. I expect it's rapid movement as I get closer, but it stays stationary, and takes on the form of a discarded bag of garbage as I approach. It smells bad, but other than that, it's harmless.
Appearances can be deceiving in the absence of daylight, where your main company is just a shadow of yourself. Your semblance gets handed off from streetlight to streetlight as you pass under the spotlights of brightness. Your shadow lengthens and shortens with each passing. It fades into the pavement and disappears, only to return, first long and faded, then on top of you, and finally, again to the rear.
The mind's eye, combined with the runner's fantasy, paints some pretty portraits on the darkened backdrop. This must be another reason we run. Creativity runs rampant, it runs the gamut; It runs side by side with one who strides. A runner separated from the run is a person who is lacking the spark of elegance, which is always there, but without the motion, is somewhat subdued and suppressed.
It's 5 in the morning, and the world is still a blur. Most of it is still asleep. Although I am not alone out there in the concealed world, there is a shortfall of company. The only sound I hear is a faint brass and drums of a patriotic Sousa medley coming from the car that will soon toss yesterday's news somewhere in the vicinity of the driveway. As I continue my march towards this morning's 5 miles, I realize that Sousa's music isn't such bad music to run to, and I continue to hum "Stars and Stripes Forever" even after the music is well out of earshot.
Within the haze immerges the clarity of thought that becomes another reason we run. The precision thinking that overcomes the internal fog tells us that running is an escape, but it's not the kind of departure we might first think. It's not so much a regression from reality as it is a progression TO reality.
The run is a thing we do, but it is also a place to go. A place where order is the order of the day, and we somehow make sense of everything that conflicts us. It's the guru on the mountaintop, and it's the wisdom of the scholars. It is us. Running is a main ingredient of a recipe that takes us from who we were, and helps evolve us to who we are. A run always results in steps forward, no matter how we look at it.
As the run ends, the silhouettes have become colorful bright images. The nebula has completely lifted, and in its wake, there is a sharpness that you have never seen before. You wish to yourself that this place you call "the run" was portable, because you don't want to leave it. But reluctantly, you return to where you started, and leave the run behind. It's okay, though. Today, you have moved forward, and you know you'll be returning time and time again.
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.