I remember the way it felt. I remember the chaotic, pace of my heart slowly becoming a rhythmic beat. I remember how the instability of my first few strides, quickly turned to fluid motion. I remember the depth of my breath, and how each heavy exhale, was followed by a refreshing inhale. I could feel the pavement meet the soles of my shoes, as my feet hit the warm pavement. “Ghosts,” by Trevor Hall, played from my iPod, drowning out the sound of my surroundings. The air was sweet with the scent of sunscreen and the afternoon breeze brushed against my skin, like a cool wave crashing against the stony shore.

I ran along the channel, gazing out upon the lighthouse that stood guard at the edge of the pier. A parade of sailboats filed through the narrow waterway, their sails luffing in the wind.  Suddenly, my firm stride became unstable within the sinking pockets of the sand. I trudged across the beach, my heart increasing in speed, my face growing hot. The soft sand soon grew stable, as I drew close to the edge of the water. I stumbled over half-buried stones and dodged over-sized, remnants of driftwood.

I ran along a path that led me into the shade of the forest. The faint sunlight spilled through the outstretched hands of the trees that grasped upward toward the heavens. Though I ran rapidly, I could feel the stillness within the shelter of the forest. I felt my muscles tense, as the path carried me up an incline of pine needles and degrading leaves. I wanted to give up, but my feet kept pushing forward; my heart kept beating. “Just a bit further,” I told myself, as I made it to the end of my ascent.

When I reached the top, I fell to my knees, the sand cushioning my skin. I closed my eyes and felt my pulse radiating through my body, as my heart, confused by my sudden lack of motion, worked to stabilize itself. I could feel something stirring within me, until suddenly, tears spilled from my eyes. At first, I clenched, trying to hold them back. But, as I opened my eyes and gazed out upon God’s creation, I felt myself surrender to the fragility of my emotion. For an entire year, I had withheld any, and all, feelings. I had told myself to toughen up through the pain, to smile through the heartbreak that had torn away at me every day. But here, as I stood among the innocence of nature and the intricacy of my emotions, I couldn’t help but be vulnerable.

Perhaps, it was at that moment that my passion for fitness began. Though seemingly unconventional, there was something about that particular run that changed me. It wasn’t just about running. Yes, I liked how it felt to move faster than the world around me; and there is definitely something amazing about feeling the intensity of your heartbeat, as each set of strides turns to another mile. But, it was more than just a desire to be fit. That day, I realized what it meant to be alive; that we are designed to move and feel and actually be.

Before heading home that evening, I looked out over the endless sea of blue that gently collided with the vibrant warmth of the evening sky.

I remember the way it felt. I remember I felt alive.