Picture for a moment a man out running in the cool evening air. He appears to be alone. But he is not.
He once ran cross-country in high school. He runs still as a middle-aged man, though no longer for prizes or for time. Simply for the physicality of it, the visceral enjoyment.
He has run weekly, sometimes daily for most of several decades now.
Running was there for him when it was the activity which best channeled and reflected the heart-racing excitement of first falling in love. Running was also there when it was the activity which best managed his depression when that love imploded.
Running was always available to lend a listening ear, to help him process his exultations and griefs; hopes and disappointments; plans for the future, and for vindication; sketches of what he would say and how he would say it; intimations of opportunities to come.
Running was invariably one of the first to greet him in a new place when he traveled. Running was the first friend he made when he moved across the country, and became his tour guide to getting to know his unfamiliar hometown.
Years have passed away; friends have come and gone; jobs have changed; children have progressed from diapers to blue jeans; even old Fido has gone the way of all the world. But running has been a constant through every season, location, and stage of life. Running has remained by the man’s side through it all.
As it is with running, so it is with every physical practice, be it walking, lifting, biking, swimming, and so on: exercise is our steadfast companion, comrade, sidekick, therapist, and, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say, protector. Always a step away, always ready to bear our joys and burdens, always faithful.