Sometimes before I go on a run, I take the laces of my jogging shoes and tie them together in a knot. I wear the pair around my neck with each shoe falling to opposite sides. The heels clunk against my chest as I make my last minute rounds. It’s as if running is my job and the shoes are the instrument I use to perform that job. Eventually, I slip them off my neck, and onto my soul. It’s time to go running.
Today started in much the usual fashion. The first few blocks were rocky, but eventually, I established a pace. A mile in, I turned the corner, and I was on my beloved lakeside path. I could still feel the thumping on my chest. At first, I couldn’t help but smile. I was on the right path, the right journey. I passed fellow runners, and we shared a knowing glance. We were brothers and sisters, comrades in a common goal.
As the miles continued, my joy began to fade. My feet burned, and my knees started to buckle. The sun battered my brow occasionally providing warmth, but often scalding. I passed my normal turning point but kept going. The pain faded and was replaced by a certain fatigue, a weariness. I was still uncomfortable, but I no longer cared.
Suddenly, I tripped on the shoelaces as if they were still tied together, and collapsed onto the pavement. For a moment, a dagger lanced through my hands and wrists before abating. The blood now dripped from my extremities.
But I was miles from the beginning; I couldn’t just stop.
My pace home was slow and methodical. The miles clicked by as my head hung down, no longer entranced by the joy of the lakeside path. I hid my eyes from my fellow joggers as they whisked by. I was embarrassed by my all too visible scars. My all too apparent pain.
I returned to the entrance of my house haggard and beat down. I no longer remembered neither the joy nor the pain of the journey I had just taken. Instead, I was empty.
Had I taken the wrong path?
I climbed the steps and pushed the key into the lock. I sat on the bench in the mud room and took off the blood spattered shoes. For a moment, I went to tie the laces in a knot again and throw them around my neck.
Instead, I chucked the miserable pair unattached into the hallway closet.
Maybe it is time to stop running.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion. Watch his talk at dotMED 2013, Caring 2.0: Social Media and the Rise Of The Empathic Physician. He is the author of I Am Your Doctor: and This Is My Humble Opinion.
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