February 13 2018
Colleen Kelly Alexander discusses the accident that changed her life and how she has rebounded in spite of the trauma to her mind and body.
Since I became a runner five years ago, I’ve run in London’s Hyde Park, New York City’s Central Park and Bangkok’s Lumphini Park. When I pack for a trip, the very first things to go in my suitcase are my running clothes, and there is an emergency running bag in my car should I unexpectedly find myself in an inspiring setting. Yet while every travel experience is accompanied by the excitement of exploration on a run, I always look forward to when I get back home and have that first run again on my favorite path in Beverly Gardens Park. There is no run more magical than the one at home because a home run is where my mind travels farther than any flight can possibly take it. It is where I can get lost in my thoughts without fear of losing my place. There is no run that is more meditative, more therapeutic, more free and more soul-nourishing than the one at home. My home path is my ashram, my church and my best friend.
As in any other long-term friendship, I have a complex relationship with my favorite path. It is where I transformed from inactive to athlete, but more importantly from incomplete to whole. It has absorbed more of my sweat than any surface, and it has seen more of my tears than any human. It has listened to all my insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams. It has been there for me day after day, no matter how many times I’ve cursed it and been ungrateful for it. It has allowed me to just be, to breathe—remaining a constant source of perspective and stability any time that I have been on an emotional roller coaster, not letting me plunge into despair and keeping me afloat.
When I first laced up my shoes and stepped foot on that dirt path, I was an overwhelmed mother of three, a wife and a physician who was drowning in responsibility. I had placed myself last on a long list that I knew I could never get through. I had buried years of hurt and insecurity inside, a dormant volcano waiting to erupt. During those first runs, all I could feel was the physical pain of a body unaccustomed to pushing itself out of its comfort zone. As I progressed into more miles and moved beyond focusing on the burning in my legs, the pounding of my heart and the panting in my chest, I finally had time to think. I allowed all I had hidden inside me to slowly surface on each run. My running path is where years after my aunt’s unexpected death, I finally grieved her loss, hearing her voice and laughter in my head, allowing myself to sob and heave on the run as tears and snot intermingled with the sweat streaming down my face. It is where I heard her tell me to live life to the fullest and not run away but to run back to myself.
My path is where thoughts, ideas and words first started swirling in my head. It is where I discovered that my mind can write when my legs are moving, that I have a voice and life experiences to share. It is where I solve every problem and mull over every big decision I need to make.
I’ve tried running indoors, but I never last more than a couple of miles. The feeling of fresh air on my skin breeds creativity while stale air-conditioned air stifles it. Getting soaked on a rainy run exhilarates me while watching a rainstorm through a window depresses me. The treadmill is not the therapist that unleashes my emotions. I’ve run with many friends and a few running groups. Running has given me a supportive community that I am grateful for, but without a doubt, my solitary runs are my favorite, and my home path is my best running friend.