We’re running. He’s ahead of my by a half a stride, and I can feel the way this makes me run harder, then harder still, trying to catch up, to syncopate, to be in step. Finally I ask him, “Where do you see me now? Next to you or behind?”
“Next to me,” he says, zero hesitation.
I sprint a step ahead so we’re in line, his feet moving in time with mine now, our knees and feet matching in gate. “How about now?” I ask.
I put my arm out like the wing of an airplane, perpendicular to my side, it brushes lightly against his chest. We’re exactly in line.
“I’m beside you now,” I say, “But I wasn’t before.”
“No way!” he’s incredulous. A dozen small finches lift up from alongside the road where the yellow coltsfoot is finally blooming like hundreds of small suns.
We’ve been running together for years, side by side, more or less in synch, our strides matching save for this irregularity of peripheral vision. Him, just a little bit ahead. Because of the way I’m strung together like a lanky marionett, my legs are nearly as long as his (though his torso is a good 6 inches longer than mine.) I’m made of legs, then ribcage, not much in between. And because of this we’ve always run together more or less side by side, even at a sprint.
Still, this is the first time I’ve bothered to ask if that half a stride distance ahead of is something he’s been doing on purpose.
Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I like the challenge. I like to run hard, feel my lungs burn and my quads heat with the sure fire of muscle motion. But there are some days, like this one, when all I want is for the effortlessness of togetherness. Neither behind nor ahead, neither pushing, nor being pushed.
He laughs now, his voice ringing out into the cold spring air. The sky is overcast but bright. The pebbles on the road gleam white and copper and ocher in between the soft places where our soles sink in the mud. The fields are greening. The shadows growing long in the gloaming.
For the rest of the run we try it. Side by side. It’s such a subtle shift, if I weren’t paying attention I might not have noticed it at all. They way my body stops pushing. The way things feel suddenly at ease, in balance.
It’s so easy, to let habit become fact. To let inertia shape the channel through which your energy flows. To settle into the way things have always been, even if it no longer feels in balance.
It’s easy for this to happen especially when you’ve been at something for a long time (13 years for us). When the days stack up full of things that need doing and work comes home for the weekend; when dishes wait on the kitchen counter and alone-time and time together are both in short supply.
Harder to bring attention to breath and pulse and heart. To take notice of the way things make you feel; to dial in and really listen. And then to ask, to reach, to wonder, aloud and together until there is a stirring of energy. Activation. Attention. Motivation.
What if instead of seeking balance, we found ourselves anew in motion over and over again?