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When I Run This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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When I run, all I can think about is how much time is ahead of me. I go for long, slow runs along Sligo Creek. I stretch, and run back, taking my time. For me, the key to running is letting go of the need to excel. When my coach tells us to push it, to pick up the pace, I focus on continuing. I keep the pace. In the beginning, my goal was to put one foot in front of the other in good running form. Now that I can do that, the goal isn't to get faster, but to keep going.

When I run, all I can think about is how much time is ahead of me. I leave the house, and I know I have forty minutes before I return. I don't know how those minutes will go. I'll just keep going through them, one by one, step by step. That's how running works.

I try to think about other things: stories I've read, stories I've written, stories I hold. I hold so many stories. Most of them aren't very good. Usually, they go something like this: I am watching my feet to avoid slipping on leaves that fell in the hurricane. The hurricane had such a lovely, gentle name. A lovely, gentle name does not mean a lovely, gentle storm. Is there such a thing as a lovely, gentle storm? Next time I see God, I'll ask Her. I suspect the answer will have something to do with love. Lots of things do, I've heard.

When I run, all I can think about is how much time is ahead of me. I plan the rest of my day: when I get home, I will stretch, shower, dress, and eat dinner. I will begin my homework immediately and complete it with alacrity, not wasting time on stress or procrastination or laziness or Tumblr. With the time I have left, I will cuddle with my mother, make cookies for my sister, and go to bed promptly at eight.

Everything is so easy in my mind when I run. There's something about the continuous forward motion – running up hills, running down hills, running past women pushing strollers and men on cell phones – that makes me feel like a superhero. When I get home, I remember that I'm weak and slow and not social and not as smart as people think I am. But those are not thoughts I need to have with me, especially not when I run.

When I run, all I can think about is how much time is ahead of me. When you're a superhero, bounding through the streets and over trails with your mighty stride, you can accomplish all your life goals. When I grow up, when I get wise, when the time is right – it may be eighty years from now, or a few decades, or mere weeks, or tomorrow – I will be strong. I will be friendly, and smart, and funny, and a person people want to be around. I will not be neurotic. I will write more and think more and possibly win international recognition for being awesome. I will know several languages and calculus and what it feels like to have space in your heart, stars in your eyes, and awe in your breathing patterns. I will welcome the world into my spinal cord, let waves wash over my rib cage. Things get caught in there sometimes, like unrequited love, and toffee.

When I run, all I can think about is how much time is ahead of me. There is time for strength, for the characteristics of a Good Citizen of the Universe, for knowledge, for love. There is time. It is all around us. It is happening with every breath. Time is passing. I will use it wisely. I don't know when I will be whole. But I know when I will be who I am: now. Now. Now. Foot on trail. Don't slip on that leaf and sprain your ankle. You have thirty-nine minutes left.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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