People always ask me why I run as much as I do. Living in NYC, I tend to use it as my means of transportation, especially given the wishy-washy qualities of the MTA. (Amiright fellow New Yorkers?) Truth be told, my love affair with running started in a much darker place, a sideways comment from a rude coworker about my weight. My journey started by shedding a few pounds and becoming a healthier person.
From there, 6.5 years and a literal 5,000 miles of distance run later, my love of running has blossomed into something much more personal. Running is my meditation. It’s my escape from everyday life. Especially in the city where we are always plugged in, always being bombarded by light, and sirens, and millions of people, it’s my way of being alone. I can think about work, life, love, I can truly check in with my body, the cadence of my feet on the groundwork as my metronome, the music, direction, route, all change based on my mood, goal, or the day I’ve had.
When I started running, it was a mile. My goal was simply to run a mile without stopping. After that, it was three. After three, it became six, eight, nine. Around that time, my best friend was running a half marathon. I thought if she can do it, why can’t I? And so I did, I ran from my apartment in Jersey City, up to the end of Hoboken and then back. 13.1 miles, I was in awe of myself. There had never been a point in my life before that day where I would’ve thought that was possible.
The day after, I ran a quick 5K and injured my IT band. I was heartbroken, my newfound love of running was taken away from me, and it took me a good four months to rehab my leg back into being able to run any distance greater than a half-mile. That time confirmed that running was more than a means to an end. It showed me that it had become something I truly loved. After I got back into it after that short hiatus, I taught my body how to do distance properly, without injury. I started chasing sunsets.
I would plan my run to be at the exact time of day where I would end up at the most southern part of Liberty State Park, just as the sun was setting. There is a small outcrop of rock that faces west, and for some reason, the sunsets I would catch down there were nothing short of awestriking—every time. As long as I got there right before or right after the sun started to go down, it was worth it. It became an addiction. It was a legitimate part of my day that I would look forward to, plan around. I would strategize my whole day around these sunsets.
Running was my means of getting there, and if I had never fallen in love with running, I never would have experienced these dumbfounding displays of nature at its finest. These moments of solitude, standing with this giant metropolis of stone, people, noise, and lights at my back, facing the ocean, washed over in the golden light of the sun setting, I would take a moment to be at one with myself. I would rejoice in my strong legs that carried me there, my lungs, my heart, my brain that was learning endurance which I would bring with me back to the city, to my job, to whatever life throws my way. I am stronger. We are all stronger than we know.
I moved out of Jersey City four years ago and into Manhattan. I’ve since run two marathons and dozens of halves. Sadly, I haven’t managed to make it back to my special place in Liberty State Park. I keep thinking about it. Every summer I think about how I need to get back out there, catch another one of those sunsets that felt like it was put there just for me.
However, whenever I travel, no matter where I go, I always take the time to plan at least one of my runs around the setting sun. It’s the best way to see what’s around you, small pathways, secluded beaches, trails in the woods, so many places we’d never find in a car or bus, or even bike sometimes. It doesn’t matter where you are. If you go looking for it, there’s beauty to be seen. The world is not a cold dead place. I’ll always be chasing sunsets.