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Liz Marsh
Liz Marsh

On a cold Wednesday night at “running school,” our assignment was to run up a steep incline as fast as we could, for as long as we could. The instructor suggested that we visualize the reason we run in front of us, and run towards it.

I was stunned to realize I had nothing to run for. I looked around at everyone else and wondered if I was alone.

I discovered running during a low point in my life and found it to be a life preserver. When I’m done running I feel strong, confident and proud. But it never occurred to me to run towards something.

I run away. I run from feelings of inadequacy and self doubt. With each step I grind into the pavement, ever present are my nightmares and childhood fear that everyone I love will die. I sweat out my insecurities, loneliness and the fear that perhaps no one will ever love me again. I run away from the boy I loved who broke my heart, and the boy I loved who’s heart I broke.

When I’m running, I don’t have to think about the economy, terrorism or whether I should change careers. All I have to think about is how my foot lands on the pavement and the way my breathing lines up with my stride. There is no room for anxiety in my chest when my lungs ache for oxygen. Endorphins are the enemy of fear and doubt.

But I don’t want to be afraid anymore, and I don’t want to run away. I want to run towards something good.

I’m humbled by my amazing family and friends who make the world around them more beautiful. I have friends who create works of art and hide them around the city for strangers to find; friends who offer low-cost daycare for struggling families; friends who volunteer time to advocate for children who are in danger of being lost in the system.

The least I can do is spend my energy practicing empathy and patience when it is hardest for me — to breathe in compassion instead of breathing out frustration.

So this New Year, my resolution is to run. Run towards the things that I can control, instead of away from the things I cannot. To fill my lungs, my body and my soul with love — even when it hurts.

Liz Marsh’s “Running Under the Influence” appears in the Colorado Daily twice a month.