Mentally prodding knees to bend, toes
thighs, arms, heart to pump.
The sun is still up and I grumble “come on”;
Lap one around the blue track.
An epic feature film of my failures and doubts
Clouds my vision as I stumble forward;
The meetings I didn’t plan, the meetings I did that
No one came to, the look of pain crossing
A loved ones’ face…
I pick up the pace
The mountains surrounding my sea-bowl track
Are dotted with ramshackle houses, metro-cables
Filled with poor folk going back home
I thrum my running beat steadily alone
Now my arms are swinging
of their own accord
I crack my neck and remind my legs
there’s no need to hurry, the road never ends.
African beats, country twang and salsa
Drown the beast in my head and
I smile, finally
feel the pull through
the blue-ing air in front of me,
into the track, into my toes
And up my belly —
A wheel I ride forward and don’t look
At the time.
The mountains are navy to the sky’s royal blue
Dotted with fairy dust or street lights
I can no longer tell.
A sentence forms where I thought
all had been erased:
“Thank you”, I repeat
to the infinite
the giver of breath
My strides and eyes are opened and I see
Blessings and beauty and rivers
In the desert;
the moon shines her deep-soul down
and I know, muscles aching,
it will be ok.
I sprint myself into a stop
Stretch my prayers side to side
Feel the pull, the pain, the pleasure converge.
For a moment,
In a land and body and heart at war,
Pierrefitte, France 5 years old: All I can remember is a sense of excitment, milling children and suddenly a start gun. I vaguely recall dad telling me to slow down and the flushed thrill of finishing (I could have done it over again right then) Dad later said he shouldn’t have held me back, but I don’t remember any disappointment.
Nouakchotte, Mauritania 7 years old: I don’t remember how many laps it was around the American Embassy, but I do remember a full mile seemed like an awful long way to have to run! The older kids had longer legs to stretch but I was determined to get that “Presidential” award anyway, and I did.
Towson, Maryland, USA 10 years old: Why in the world would anyone go running if there wasn’t a ball or a goal at the end of it? I tried once, maybe twice, to go out with dad and Johanna jogging in our neighborhood. It was just boring. I stuck to soccer and basketball.
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA 12-15 years old: At first it was about losing weight (isn’t it always when you’re 15?). I would put up with the boredom, drown it with music if possible, and struggle through. A full three miles was hard, usually I stuck to to two. Painful or not, somehow the habit got under my skin.
East Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine, 16-18 years old: It was about competition– to show the boys I could, to show myself I could. It was a third of a triathlon and therefore necessary. But I remember flying past orthodox men and women, color film to their their black and white, down cobbled and crammed streets until I reached the park where acrobats, hippies, and religious all soaked in sun and grass. My body learned to love the sweat, the stretch, the feeling that you can’t only to realize you can. My mind learned the release of monotonous exhaustion in an ever changing context of conflict.
Harrisonburg VA, USA, 18-21 years old: Run to make friends. Run to make an impression. Run to see the valley and its surroundings. Run because it gives you an excuse to go to bed and wake up early. Run because you’re in love and he’s not; because there’s a war in Gaza and no one gives a damn. Run because the leaves are changing and you haven’t seen the farms and cows for a few days. Run because your body is screaming and screaming and will only be heard through stomped feet on gravel road; because your mind is full of theory, poetry, justice, right and wrong and the world on its head and so you need to think about breathing in and out only. Keep running.
Some people garden, some people write songs, some walk, some eat (ok, I eat…), I’ve learned to run. Here, I need to because the city is so busy and mind-boggling in its contrasts and violence, because there are so many situations I don’t know what to do about, and because I simply spend too much sitting at a computer.
I wanted to share a little about what running has meant throughout my life before announcing that on September 9th I will (God willing) be completing the Medellin Half-Marathon! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but it’s also something that at this point in my life I’d like to dedicate to something. To peace, specifically. To my church’s work with victims in la Ceja even more specifically. Running is of great personal value, but to me it would be all the more meaningful to run 13 miles in the knowledge that in doing so I’m supporting the grassroots trauma healing and accompaniment work of Manantial de Paz (my church) in a municipality deeply affected by the armed conflict.
I sent an email to a few supporters recently outlining what I wanted to do and why. I thought my friend Oscar would be joining me in the run, but because of complications in his family life he won’t be able. Nevertheless I have already signed up and would be thrilled if you are interesting in sponsoring my 13 miles for peace in some small way. Funds will go directly to the church’s social action ministry.
If you’d like to sponsor me:
The simplest way to donate is to send in a check to
PO Box 500
Akron PA 17501-0500
On the memo line of the check write “PDA Jessica Sarriot.” This will go to my personal account, so it’s important you write to me and let me know that you’re donating!
If you’d rather give online, go to https://donate.mcc.org/project/personal-drawing-account-non-receiptable-transaction Check the box for “Make this donation in Memory, Honor, or Support of someone” and type Jessica Sarriot in the box that appears after you add an amount to their basket.
Whether or not you can support financially, I appreciate your continued general support. I hope wherever you are you can also find tools and ways of getting out of your skin, out of your head, and experiencing a peace that certainly surpasses my understanding.