Pebbles shifted and rolled silently along the pavement as her shoes struck the ground. The rhythmic in and out of her breathing broke the silent air around her as she trudged loyally along the path she ran daily.
Dusk was becoming her favorite time to run. With the setting sun and the crisp golden horizon behind her, she ran towards the oncoming darkness of the fall night. The air was turning cold and sharp in her lungs as she breathed slow and deep. Her legs, lean and strong, bent and fueled her run along the forgotten path outside the county park.
No one came here. There were no bicyclist to wrestle for lane room and no mothers with their mini caravan strollers hollering for an open lane on the right or left. Little did she see any wild life and anything they left behind, giving her little reason to search the ground or clear space in her path.
It was just her. And her thoughts.
The orange haze of dusk settled around the horizon and hugged the hills as she trotted off at a slow beginning pace. Simple and measured, she stretched her legs and warmed up her muscles, allowing her body to feel the rhythm in her stride as she set out to clear her mind. Her breathing fell into pace with her arms at her side, pumping in time to the fall of her step.
Soon her heartbeat was up and the whooshing waves of pumping blood clouded her hearing and focused her senses. She was running now, a faster pace. Her stride was at it’s full length and her lungs worked harder to breathe in. Breathe out. A steady pace. No one breath bigger or longer than the others.
Her focused mind worked through the file of daily thoughts and regular to-dos. Checking off each as she thought about them, soon her mind was blank as she hit her second mile. The aches and pains of the first mile were behind her and now her legs hit their peak and the path stayed steady and smooth. Strong and forcefully, her steps hit quickly as her pace improved and her mind wandered.
It was for the best.
Decisions to end things were never easy. Even in the hardest of situations, all endings are painful and have some bittersweet qualities to them. This one was no different.
She still loved him, but his feeling for her would never be enough. She knew it and he denied it. And his inability to see the areas that needed improvement, to see the work that needed to be done to fill in the gaps in their relationship, was the crack beneath them threatening to open up and swallow them whole.
Sweat beaded against her brow and her breathing was coming in through her nose sharply, stinging her as it passed through her lungs and forced its way past her lips, whispering into the cooling night air. The ground titled upwards as she began to climb the one hill of the whole course. She was prepared for the steep incline and the change in her pace. Without pause she dug in her toes, pitching slightly forward, her shoulders parallel to the sloping ground.
For months she struggled through the daily niceties, the hugs and kisses, the conversations over dinner about work and friends. The distance between them lengthened as she thought more about what was missing. And what she still felt for him.
And for him, nothing changed. He still viewed their relationship as whole. As complete. He wanted it to stay the same, always. A fact she knew was impossible for no human begin could stop growing, changing. Things would shift and grow between them whether he wanted it to happen or not.
His denial was suffocating them.
The hill reached onwards as her breathing intensified and her legs reached harder for that next step. Every muscle in her body burned and her lungs squeezed tighter. On fire and threatening to give up, her lungs worked endlessly to focus her breath out and draw more of the crisp night air in. She ached and yearned to stop, to quit. To give up. It was too much.
She was too tired.
Then she remember the logic behind this run. By the time she hit the hill, over three miles were behind her, and once she stood atop that obstacle viewing the city from the very peak, there was only one mile to finish, most of it downhill and simple. A breeze after the first four.
This hill, this blockage in her path, was only a small fraction of the whole journey.
Using the last ounce of strength left in her legs, she propelled her listless body upwards. Head down, breathing sharp, sweat pouring into her eyes and leaving small craters of moisture on the dry, dirt path, she felt a yell of fierce determination funnel from her chest and out into the silence.
And then there was the silence again. Her foot met the top of the hill, the dirt wafting up from the print of her shoe on the ground. The creeping night air, cold and comforting hovered over the calm city lights that lay before her. She walked in circles, letting her lung catch up and slowing her heart rate to a steady beat. Reaching up she batted away the sweat and tears mingling on her skin, trickling down her cheeks and hanging from her jaw.
There was no obstacle she couldn’t overcome. The hard part was done. Now it was time to continue on and to finish what she started.