A few nights ago, I ran along the path in the forest preserve. In the first few steps, the cold air bit me and chilled my face. But I welcomed this feeling of winter, I had been waiting for it all day, for these 50 minutes, for the pleasure to run on this path.
I set out alone but still my mind was crowded with remnants of the day. It buzzed with the conversations, situations that busied my mind at work. It was a busy day, my mind was tired.
Trying to push the thoughts away, I found it more difficult than usual. Eight hours is a hard to erase and was not letting go easily. In my mind, I was replaying conversations and reworking resolutions. I had to let it go. 50 minutes will pass too soon, I cannot let these 50 minutes run away from me.
And so, I focused on the season surrounding, the winter season that filled the forest preserve. Trees stood bare and black, their silhouettes etched into the sky at dusk. Watching day become night, the horizon glowed orange and the sky faded blue in the background.
As I ran along the path, I watched winter do what it does best – be still. Nothing moved, everything was silent. Not even the wind spoke tonight. The only sound was that of my feet pushing off the path with each light step.
Winter is my favorite season to run, the beauty and peace in dormancy that surrounds each step of the run. It is a season of quiet, of stark landscapes, of barren silhouettes. It is a season of stillness and waiting.
For athletes, winter is very much the same. It is a season of decreased activity, a season of restless waiting. The mind is quiet, the legs are relatively still. And we wait for the season ahead.
Tonight this wintry path was mine. So was the lake reflecting the fading light of the sunset, the hill that rose above it looming like a mountain in the sky. The path and all of its quietude and peace and serenity belonged to me. On this run, and more, together we will pass the winter waiting for the season ahead.
At that moment, my mind cleared and filled with thoughts of the run, the sound of each breath, the feel of each step. In taking my mind off myself, my work, my worries, I found my way back into the part of myself that really mattered – not work, not worries but the here and the now. These footsteps falling one in front of another on this path.
Finally with my mind emptied, for the next few miles, I began running through races planned for the year ahead. My mind painted pictures of success and desire and strength. I imagined heat and hills, rivers and lakes. By the end, I had visualized so many states so vividly in my mind that I had completely forgotten where I was.
Approaching the end of the run, I looked out to the lake and watched the sun sneak one last look at the world before snuggling under the blanket of night. As it disappeared, the landscape looked frozen and cold. And this darkness and stillness signaled that the day was nearly done. Like winter waiting for spring, for tomorrow we will now wait.
Watching this sunset, I made a commitment to myself, to my goals for next year. Verbally, out loud, for all the forest to hear, I announced my intentions for myself. I made a commitment for the season ahead, a promise I will not let go. And, until then, I will do the work and like winter I will wait.
Running towards the car, I realized the size of what I just said. How limitless and large it was, how immeasurable it might seem. And then I heard myself, words breaking through the silence of winter, saying to myself we are only limited by what we believe. And with quiet acceptance, winter agreed. There is reason why winter waits – it waits because it believes, believes one day winter will turn into spring. Until then, the journey of each day will be mostly dark and uncomfortably cold.
It will be worth the wait when finally spring blooms with beauty and life. And after a winter of waiting, you and your goals will bloom too. In the quiet of your mind, you just have to believe. The spring will come, you’ll reach your goals. I made this promise to myself, now like the winter I will wait.