I wake up Saturday morning feeling anxious.
My skin itches and my heart won’t stop fluttering. Sitting still hurts when my mind is racing faster than my flickering pulse.
I want to take off. I want to run so far and fast away from here that nothing can touch me. I want to feel my feet pounding on the pavement, heart pounding in my chest, and lungs pounding against my swollen ribs.
So, I decide to escape. My boyfriend drives down George Washington Parkway while I stare through the bare trees passing by outside. I let my eyes follow the patterns of the clouds graying the sky and wonder how they’re able to keep themselves still.
Although we have only driven twenty minutes, when I step out of the car at the Great Falls Visitation Center, I feel completely removed from Georgetown. We are completely surrounded by wooded area and dirt trails. Everything is still and silent,except for the sound of rushing water in the background..
I follow the sound until I’m standing over basin of the waterfall. I listen to the water cascading over the falls until I can no longer hear my own thoughts ringing in my ears. When the cold is finally too much to bear, we take off running.
I want to stay along the Potomac so we follow the River Trail, which hugs its banks. After running for just a few minutes, it’s completely silent again. I’m beginning to get into the groove of my run, but my feet are stiff from the cold and I have to keep looking down for rocks. I want to just sprint, but I can’t.
While my boyfriend glides over the rocks smoothly, they become so pervasive that I have to stop running. I feel endlessly frustrated with my body for not taking to the rocks as easily or being able to move as quickly. As the trail ascends more steeply, I can feel my cheeks burning with slight vexation. I’m concentrating so intently on the rocks beneath me that I don’t notice when the land dips down beside us.
My boyfriend looks back at me, “Do you want to go down?”
I look at the leaves and rocks covering the slope down to the riverbank. I nod and watch him gracefully slide down the leaves and jump across the surfaces of the rocks. I stand on the surfaces of the same rocks and imagine myself leaping across them with the same ease. But, I don’t leap. I stand there and feel my legs shake. I clumsily use my hands and crawl across to where he stands on one of the higher rocks.
We’re standing on equal ground, but I feel inferior. “I’m sorry I’m so slow,” I say, but I’m not sure who I’m apologizing to. He looks at me, smiles, and says, “I’m in no rush. Just make sure you don’t fall.”
By the time I think of a response, he’s walking toward the edge of the water. I watch him staring at the Potomac and wonder why I’m in such a rush to get through our hike. I stand frozen for a few moments feeling my breath rise and fall.
When we return to the trail, I decide to be okay with slowly climbing up the rocks instead of sprinting across them. I feel my muscles working as we scale the inclining trail. My heart is pounding when we reach the top even though I hadn’t been sprinting.
I decide it’s okay if we walk for a bit down the ridge trail before deciding to take Old Carriage Road back. When we do head back, we run the whole way. It’s unscenic, but the smoothness makes it easier to run. I enjoy the ease of the trip back, even though I know my boyfriend could easily run faster. I decide to be okay with the limits of my body.
I will never be the fastest or most graceful runner, but I don’t mind having to take time and be patient with myself. No matter what, running will always be a part of me.
Photo: Lara Fishbane