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On Running: The Runner's Trance

On Running
The Runner's Trance

It had been a difficult meeting, but I kept my emotions concealed as I walked to my office and sat down at the computer to check the latest news. The market was down again and the politicians were sparing amongst themselves with little regard for honesty towards us. I looked at the running bag sitting in the corner with a sense of relief.
I ran straight to a familiar grass trail. In the distance, I could hear traffic from the highway; people hurrying toward the next thing on their schedule.
The rushing noise slowly faded away as I became aware of a different sound, birds singing to welcome me back. They darted around as if they were inviting me to join them in their game. Up ahead, a pair of geese sat on the path. Just before I reached them, they move aside and fussed. I slowed down and fussed back, pretending they could understand, then laughed at myself. Sometimes, I'm the only comedian I find entertaining.
The world turned silent after that, except from the rhythm of my breathing. I ran on autopilot, letting the path steer. There was a wide stream running full beside me and a lone deer watched from the other side. I wondered what she was thinking.
I reached the end of the trail and reluctantly turned around. Falling into a runner's trance on the way back, it surprised me when I realized the run was almost over, and I felt a strong urge to stop. It wasn't fatigue, but a desire to keep the world away for just a little longer. I didn't fight it.
I slowly walked along the path and saw the birds darting back and forth again. There were buds on trees and the grass was waking up. The path would look different soon.
I heard the sound before I saw him, a red-headed woodpecker, and I searched until I found him on the side of a tree. As I stood on the path, he danced from place to place trying to find the right spot, and I realized that I was way ahead of him. Like so many times before, running had led me to a perfect place.
I remember my first business trip to Chicago. Lonely and homesick, I ran down to the trail by Lake Michigan. Within moments, I was surrounded by hundreds of other runners and the loneliness faded.
Running has brought me seclusion when I was overwhelmed and friends when I needed support. It's led me toward inspiration and away from discontent. It seems like when each run is over I'm in a better place then I was when it began.
I guess I can't think of too many things much more important than that. After all, isn't that what each one of us is doing, searching for a better place?
I watched the woodpecker for a few more moments before starting to run back toward the office. In the distance, the sound of traffic began to rise.

Dave Griffin writes a bi-weekly running column and offers coaching to high school and adult runners of all levels. Contact Dave at

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