About six years ago I started running more seriously. What first started out with slow two-milers evolved into even slower five milers, and then slow 10ks, and then fast 10ks, and then semi-paced half marathons. My love for running doesn’t come from the need to exercise or “stay in shape.” As a college-level basketball player, the training that would help me caps out at around mile number two when it comes to running distances. I don’t run to be the fastest or to win every race I enter. I run because it’s one of the only things that make my body feel completely whole.
My uncle once said that the best runs are the ones with the most textures. He’s completely right. Now mind you I’ve been on some pretty fun runs. A seven-mile route around an island in Maine, up a mountain in New Hampshire, around Amsterdam’s socialist housing projects in the Netherlands, a 5k completely in my Tevas to prove they’re the best sandals out there. My favorite run though is in my own backyard, one that I’ve been going on for six years now, one that I cannot escape. I took my uncle on this exact route one misty Princeton morning. Depending on a couple of detours or alternate routes it ranges between a five to six-mile run, most usually 5.2 miles is what I like to settle with. I took my uncle on this run and after we finished I could tell he was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t through beautiful forested hills, or across shiny, sparkly creeks, but the textures underneath our feet were infinite, and that honestly sufficed for the both of us.
These infinite textures feel me grow.
There’s so much literature and theory about the act of watching someone or something grow old. I wonder what it’s like to feel it.
I run on the sidewalk and the tan concrete underneath feels a girl evolve from skinny and finicky to filled-in and stable. I run on the patched-up Jersey roads and it feels long frizzy hair evolves into a more tamed version. I run on the dewy grass and the moisture soaks up my compulsory heterosexuality and spits out a confident lesbian. I run on the University’s winding paths and it feels me no longer getting lost in its twists and turns, rather following this new compass I feel between my ribs. I run on the fine gravel in the secret garden and the flowers feel me moving my lips to different styles of music, as the years go on I don’t get any better at learning lyrics. I run on the bridge across Washington Road and the structure feels my sweat dripping from my brow, my tears dripping from my eyes, my spit salivating out of the corners of my mouth, I guess some things never change. I run under the shade of the chemistry building and the concrete blocks feel my sore joints constantly pounding, confidently pounding, commemorating all the pounds that came before. I run past my high school, my new school, and then my old school, and then my former school, the sidewalk underneath me starts to differentiate the feeling of my feet from the thousands of other teens that traverse it daily. I guess eventually it’s forced to comprehend my adult feet. I run down the hill on Terhune road if there are no cars. The ground feels me sobbing and breathing and sometimes dry heaving. And then when I stop, it feels the endorphins, and satisfaction, and reflection. The ground and textures underneath me know more about me than I really do, or so I believe. The different textures feel me grow.
Some people like to measure their growing height on the side of a kitchen wall with a ruler and a sharpie. Sometimes it’s hard for me to feel my growth, even after I go on a long run. I do however know that the textures underneath me can feel my growth. Every time I decide to run, to take long strides, to almost fly across their terrain, I am growing.