It begins with the gravel beneath my feat, heart bursting out of my chest (despite the slow pace), the beaded sweat, and the crippling fear of not completing the course I had chosen. Moving to New York City was supposed to be the answer. For someone who was a type-A planner their whole life, the grid of streets had at first been a comfort. But the grid was starting to give way to a slew of bad dates, exhaustion from my fourth floor walk-up, and questions about what I was doing here. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I knew the toxicity in my life needed to be discharged. Some parts of life were beginning to feel like weak branches on the limp tree I had just passed in the park. But yet, the excellence that New York City demanded was persistently pushing me to make a change which is why I found myself in the reservoir that day. I was looking there for the person I wanted to become.
I lived in the capital of the world, on the beautiful Upper West Side, cheerfully nestled next to the park made famous by the movies- but I couldn’t enjoy it. Despite the Hollywood familiarity, Central Park was foreign to me, a place where I could get lost outside of the grid. Central Park was the only place I let myself get lost, but the truth was; I had been lost for a long time.
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is beyond a clearing, grand and bold. I considered it an aspirational symbol of New York—a glamorous gem that was favorited by the fashionable former first lady. Important things happened here. I was fascinated with the huge hole in the ground surrounded by the East and West sides of New York. Majestic apartment buildings formed the skyline adorned with the colors of the sun at dawn and dusk. The sun’s rays bounced off of the buildings and turrets in a different way each time. The beauty reminded me that each day is different and unexpected.
The only way around the loop was to run. I hadn’t run in over a year and was nervous to start with the worst thought swishing through my mind. What if I can’t finish? What if just under two miles is too much? The worst part wasn’t the effort, it was the wondering what if?
I ran with surprising defiance, gravel beneath my feat, heart bursting. I made it around with sheer will.
Ten days later, the rhythm of running changed to the whir of a wheel when I tried Soul Cycle for the first time. The contrast from the exposed insecurity of running in broad daylight, to the intensity of the darkened room helped me focus. What I found was a community of leaders. The men and women I rode with were as majestic as the reservoir skyline; surrounding me, and giving me courage to keep coming back. The woman who taught us had long black hair- waving and free, she was the one who told me I was exactly where I needed to be. I was ready and the right teacher appeared. I kept coming back.
The run went from just under 2 miles to just over 6 as I finished my first 10k race in Central Park ten months later. Running the small reservoir, to the entire park, was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Being with thousands of people racing for their own fight was magical. Running and cycling have changed me on the outside, but more importantly on the inside. Always coming back and fighting for more. The metaphor of running that race is how I want to live my life. I want to dig deep into the doubt that can corrode, knowing that sheer will to move forward is stronger. The humble fight to be my best must never stop. I am healthy; alert, regulated breath, heart open, with the gravel beneath my feet.