I used to be a runner.
I ran in 5ks and 10ks, and even did a half-marathon and a 15 mile fundraiser run (that turned into a walk-jog near mile 12, because I didn't train as well as I really needed to).
A few things happened, like me having weird knee pain and back pain and general laziness, that made me get out of the habit. And maybe I'll be a runner again. I don't know.
When I was a runner, I preferred to run alone, but that was never a rule. I'd occasionally run with my friend Mary, or I'd run with my running group, The Second Wind. We would meet up at a park in a ridiculously small town that was about 10 minutes from the not-quite-as-ridiculously-small town where I lived. We would usually just run the mile loop at the park, and really that was all I knew of the town. I knew they had a Sonic Drive-In, a CVS, and a few schools, but I didn't spend much time in that town. It was ridiculously small.
But I ran that mile loop a lot. Probably more than 100 times. It was familiar. It was comfortable--even that big hill near the end that I hated so much. I'd always try to run faster when I got to that hill, just to show it who was boss. And even when it beat me and I had to walk it, I got to the top. And in the springtime, my favorite time to run, on the other side of that hill were honeysuckle bushes. That heavenly aroma, my favorite smell in the world, was my reward for conquering the hill.
And I deserved a reward. That hill was hard. It was a very hard, awful, butt-kicking hill.
But at the same time, it was familiar. It was something I knew was coming. I knew how to mentally prepare for it. I knew what I had to do to pace myself before reaching it.
But one of those times where I met with my running group, the guy leading us decided to lead us out of the park. I had no idea where we were going, as I had only run that mile loop (with that familiar hill). I'd never ventured outside the park in this ridiculously small town. And even in a ridiculously small town, I was uncomfortable. I had no idea where we were going.
We ran down Main Street. We turned a corner onto a street I don't think I'd ever been on before. We ran past homes and tiny little shops. I took it all in, trying to figure out exactly where I was. We ran down this street for maybe half a mile before I realized I sort of knew where we were. The road we were on connected with another road I had driven down, but I'd always been on the other side of it.
We did take that road, and I figured out where we were pretty quickly. But had we kept running on the path we were on, we would have run up another hill. And this hill wasn't one I'd seen before. It wasn't familiar to me. And at the top of that hill was a house I'd never seen before.
Fast-forward about three years.
I'm living in that unfamiliar house at the top of that unfamiliar hill in that ridiculously small town. I've been living here over a year now. And this ridiculously small town isn't so scary anymore.
But as I drove past those homes and tiny little shops along the street where I now live, I couldn't help but remember how foreign they once looked to me, as I ran an unfamiliar path.
And that hill that once looked almost foreboding to me, the hill that I didn't know, well, it's my home.
I've been wondering right now what's to come of my life. I feel completely overwhelmed sometimes, completely stuck where I am. I start things and fail to accomplish them. I try, only to be beaten down by circumstance, or worse, by my own laziness. I trudge the same paths, and they're familiar, but they're tedious.
I need to face a new hill. I'm scared because I'm not ready. I don't know how to prepare myself for something I don't know. But I need to face the hill.
Because at the top of it might be something I couldn't expect, something I couldn't imagine, something that might change my life.
I don't know how. I'm not ready. But I think the time is coming fairly soon, and I'm going to need to take that first step up that hill.