Inhale. Digest. Swallow. Unbutton.

There are several highs that are in this life. The tangible high of making money, of having sex, the high from drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. You can have as much sex to numb your senses and cancel out what it feels like to be in love. Theses things, theses tangibles, they fade away, and some fade quicker than others.

As they fade away, we find ourselves obsessed at wanting more– we become clinically labeled as “addicted”. Our desires turn into greed and that greed creates the worst version of ourselves as we cryptically diverge into monsters. People view us thinking we are okay, but when we stand naked in front of the foggy mirror we make eye contact with a disgusting version that covers and hides our unbounded truth.

I’ve experienced the highs. I’ve consumed all that I can get, because I just couldn’t get enough. I became addicted in covering all that is reality and acting a role that I was never born to play– until I started running for the 2015 Surf City Half Marathon.

Butterflies creep into my stomach as the car rolls into a halt. Am I forgetting anything? Oh Dear God did I put deodorant on today? My dad stops at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Beach Boulevard, as I hop out of the car.

I say to my parents, “Bye, Love ya. See you later.” as I walk north towards the crowds and start line.

I get a text from my mother, almost within two minutes of parting, “Very proud of your strength and courage. You go girl”.

The runners are dressed in an array of bright colors. The people range between late 20 fitness geeks, 30 year old girlfriends from college, the occasional fitness couples that only eat kale and probably own french bulldogs. There are middle aged married couples that are only here for the beer garden after the race. There are 60 year old women who seem to be apart of a running/Bible study/ women’s group.

My demographic– 23-year-old Caucasian, student, single, first time runner– is non-existence. I am literally lost in translation of what it means to have a group, or a training partner. I just have me and my shoes.

“Welcome ruuuunnnnners to the 2015 Surf City Half Marathon!” I hear an overly caffeinated DJ screaming through speakers that surround the mob of people. I peek around trying to see where this guy is but he is no where to be found. If this is God speaking then I’m disappointed because it sounds like Ryan Seacrest and not Morgan Freeman.

I examine everyone around me as the DJ fails to get us pumped up. The runners have the latest and “best” brands; the shoes, the compression bands for shin splints, fancy belts that hold keys, snacks and water. Jesus, we aren’t climbing the face of El Capitan, we are just running to Bolsa Chica and back.

In the sea of overly prepared runners, I begin to check out what I am wearing.

My obnoxious neon pink Nike Lunerlons are tied in double knots. My right shoe has a tracker so my parents can get text updates on my time. My Lululemon pant is folded two inches above my ankles. I do this to let them swell without the irritation of compression, which is what you are totally not supposed to do. A King’s Playoff hockey towel is viciously tucked into my left hip, just incase my sweat glands produce more sweat than anticipated. I fix the neck of my sports bra and remember that this is a hand-me-down, from my ex-boyfriend’s mother. She has fake tits and this bra perfectly fits me. Ewwww. Weird. I gently touch my chest and feel that my Dogeared elephant necklace is unbalanced and play with it until fits in a centralized place. Adjusting my FitBit on my left wrist and tightening the screws of my Leve Cartier bracelet on my right wrist– I realize that I have never been more ready before until right now.

I am a rookie with my iPhone smashed in an old iPod carrier, to hang from my arm. I don’t have the “best on the market” of sunglasses or hair ties to help make my race easier. The only thing that I care most is what happens between me and my shoes.

It is 8:17 am, the Ryan Seacrest wannabe yells in my ear that my time has started. I throw my hands in the air and scream WOOO, as I begin mile 1 of this 13.1 mile endeavor.

I jog shoulder to shoulder with runners as I feel pressure in my gut. OMG Danika, really? You have to poop this early in the race?!  It does not help that I got my “feminine” nature gift 12 hours before this moment.

I stop at the lovely outhouse’s provided just after mile 2. I have been training since November 24, 2014 and what am I doing? Oh, I am standing in line to empty my waste.

Once I am done, I change my music, pick up my pace for the lost time and keep moving forward.

I have been training, 4 days a week for 10 weeks. Some days were a breeze, of running only 3 miles and some were fucking death, that required 11 miles.

Sometimes I found myself running to find something or someone. Sometimes I found myself running away from myself.

I became more introverted as my training became more intense. I chose to read at a coffee shop on Friday nights instead of consuming my bodyweight in vodka. I didn’t talk to my friends as often. I went on occasional dates but didn’t feel the need to go any further in a relationship. Some my have thought that I felt alone, isolated and bleak. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anyone it was simply that I didn’t need anyone. I built more self-reliance with every morning that I trained. My relationship grew between me, my shoes and all of the 196 miles we created together.

Mile 5 and I have been running in a residential area for about a mile. I pass four generations dressed in neon green t-shirts to identify who they are. Yes, great-grandma, grandma, daughter, and great-granddaughter are tackling a half marathon together! #familygoals

There are a few pesky hills. I start to sprint because I want to get through them. I use too much energy and begin to slow down as I see a water station in the distance. Thank God, I need water.  I reach out to a young man for a cup. He is about 5’6″, skinny, with red hair styled in the signature 2010 Justin Bieber hair flip. His eyes– so light of a blue that they look like glass. I can’t remember the last time that I interacted with a 13-year-old boy.

He kindly says, “You are doing great, beautiful. Keep it up.”

In any other situation, I would be pissed at a kid calling me “beautiful”. But this situation sparked a difference. It wasn’t that he was catcalling me, or degrading me. He was simply telling me that what me and my body is doing right now– is organically beautiful.

That was a kick of motivation that I need after those hills. I chug the cup of iron tasting Arrowhead water, crush the cup and throw it to the side.

A stream of water does not make it in my mouth. The water falls from my right jawline, down my neck, and gets caught in the chain of my dainty necklace. The stream continues as it is squeezes through the crevasse of my cleavage and absorbs into my already damp sports bra. Distracted by this sensation, I pull my towel and wipe my chest. In this slight erotic moment with a stream of water, I agree with the kid, He’s right. Keep it up beautiful. I do… just me and my shoes.

I am back on PCH and the sun’s rays are sharply powerful near the sand. My hip flexors, quads, and calves are tightening up. I pass a man blasting Christian rap from a stereo. He’s holding a sign that says CHRIST and is wearing the biggest smile that is humanly possible. He make’s me smile. The music sucks but the message is clear. He succeeded at his job of being here… for me.

I pass fathers with their kids that hold written signs saying “I love you mommy”.  I zip past dad’s running the race, while pushing their kids in joggers. Holy Shit I gotta find someone like you to procreate with. Random people sit kindly with signs, as they encourage all of us runners.

“Nap. Beach. Beer”

“YOU LOOK SO SKINNY!”

“Run now. Wine later”

Mile 9, and it’s time to loop around and head south.  Bolsa Chica State Beach is to the right and I can smell the delicious burgers cooking in the distance. I would do some sick shit for an In-N-Out Burger right now.

Fatigue, hunger and dizziness is overwhelming my concentration. The next water station is handing out Cliff Bar Caffeine Shots. Perfect. I will take any nutrition that I can get even though everyone is starting to look like animal style french fries.

I aggressively take the shot from the table and keep running. I squeeze it into my mouth and immediately stop moving with a horrid look on my face. What the fuck is this? Who thinks that this tastes good?! The texture is like a microwaved slug and tastes like if Care Bears could take a dump. I chug three cups of Vitalyte, to get rid of the taste.  Bad Idea. I am cramping up from the sugar or whatever is in Vitalyte. As I walk it off, my muscles start to tighten up. I pull to the side to stretch and try not to vomit that awful concoction that sits in my empty stomach.

The caffeine kicks in, I turn up the volume of my music, me and my shoes go faster as my body slowly get’s warmed up again.

19th street. Okay, I have like 19 or so blocks left. I’m almost there. The crowds along the race boundaries are thickening as I get closer to Main Street. I slow my pace as I get a wave of cramps in my reproductive area. There is a man to the left wearing a lively hawaiian shirt and is holding his Galaxy s5 sideways and ready to snag a photo. I think Hey that’s my dad but I don’t pull over to give him a hug. He recognizes that I am, me and fumbles with his phone to document me as I slowly pass. I smile and keep moving foreword. Yay, dad saw me!

Left foot. Right foot. Pump the arms. Engaged the core. Use your body. I’m in the stage of reminding myself simple engagements. My pace is rooted by my music.

All of a sudden I hit a wall, not of exhaustion but of euphoria.

This is unlike the wall of a tequila shot, the hit from anything, or being kissed on the collar bone. I’m halfway through Mile 12 and I have entered the high. The high of unmatchable sensations.

You can’t find this sensation at a music festival. You can’t find it in the ocean. You can’t find it in anyone else while tangled in sheets. This high, this energy, is only embedded in the deepest cells of my body.

I hear the crowds cheering as I get closer to the finish line. I rip the headphones out of my ears and the euphoria continues to heighten as my brain meets the world.

I can’t stop smiling. For the first time in my life — I feel as if I am enough. I feel like the most beautiful person in the world. I am effortless, I am soaring and I am only focused on me, my body and my shoes. This high is higher than high, it is everywhere.

Here it is, the moment is here, the last step is here. Me and my shoes, we jump over the finish line.

I smile, the sweat trickles from my undercut down my neck, my breathing turns into wheezing, my heart is full of love. Just like that it was over. Everything behind me is done. Over. Gone and dead. Those miles lay passively and rotten and I am alive.

I look down as I close my eyes and I listen to my wheeze.

This is what Om feels like. This is love. This is truth. This is inherently the pursuit of wholeness.

I open my eyes and there they are. My shoes. Me and my shoes. We walk forward to a volunteer and grab a 2015 Surf City Half Marathon medal and wrap it around my neck.

We keep moving, just me and my shoes. We realize that this is not just the 13.1 miles that has us feeling this high. It is the 196 miles since November, the gallons of water consumption, the texts saying, “I’m sorry I can’t go out I have to run tomorrow morning. Have fun tonight”, the running that helped cure my broken heart, that built confidence,  and that started the process of me loving myself again. All of the adversity, pain and doubt is put to rest.

In all of my days of athletics, of the arts, of travels, and of any adventure– nothing can compare to right now. This is the youngest and the oldest I will ever be. Balanced in time and stopped in motion of recognizing that this is me, this is now, this is what perfect feels like.

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4 thoughts on “Me and My Shoes

  1. I absolutely love this, Danika! I’m so glad you had an incredible experience. Running is this crazy mix of meditation, high, excitement and calmness all at the same time. People run for different reasons but we all seem to have a similar experience out there. You truly do find yourself through running. You discover what you’re capable of, body and mind! Congrats on the accomplishment and hopefully the first of many races 🙂

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  2. Just so you know you’ve made it into Twenty Somethings, Edition 1! Congrats!! 🙂
    I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your submissions, so if you get a chance drop me an email, so we can have a chat about it. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Thanks again for entering!

    twenty7zero3@gmail.com

    Like

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