By Louise Williams
There is a rock in my shoe.
It is stabbing me. With every step, it is slowly eating away at my calloused flesh. There is a hole forming on the ball of my foot. Each landing of my sneaker on the soft dirt trail lodges it deeper into me. But I refuse to be crippled by this malicious pebble. If I stop now, I’ll loose my momentum. The remaining mile will be harder. The previous four miles of heaving and wheezing will have been in vain.
When I approach the first menacing hill of the Baldy trail, I imagine myself in the bare feet of an early Inland Empire inhabitant. I’m being chased by a coyote. My life depends on the furiously fast movements of my limbs up this vertical incline. Do I really have time to dislodge a rock from my foot when there is a wild animal waiting pick the meat off of me?
Running, once a pivotal skill of human survival, is now more often a cellulite-busting tool for the average desk plagued American. No longer incentivized predators, people run to cope and shed pounds. For Claremont college students such as myself, it provides an escape from life’s mounting pressures and a release from the indoors.
According to Christopher Mcdougal’s 2012 bestselling novel Born to Run, running has often been a national trend during times of crisis. The sport’s first boom came after the Great Depression. Later, rattled by the Cold and Vietnam wars, racial riots and a slew of political assassinations, Americans again laced up their sneakers in the 1970s. Most recently, in the year after the September 11 crisis, trail running became the fastest growing outdoor sport in the country.
A recent article titled “Stress Takes Its Toll on College Students,” published in Bloomberg Businessweek, claimed that today’s college students are reporting higher levels of stress than ever before. Not only are many buried in debt but, “the slow economy is making it difficult to find jobs after graduation; and academia, much like the rest of the world, continues to get ever more competitive.”
Simply existing in modern-day society can be taxing. Constantly glued to our phones and laptops from which we are flooded with information from our Twitters, Facebooks, texts, emails and news websites, our brains are forced into overdrive to process everything. In this world of heightened choice, we make more decisions than ever before. Many can end up feeling overwhelmed and fatigued by these tensions. Exercise is a great relief from these burdens. It pumps you with feel-good neurotransmitters known as endorphins that give you energy and clarity. Having to channel your focus into a physical motion such as running can allow you to temporarily forget your worries. You can shed pounds and stress through movement.
The purple San Gabriel Mountains provide a distractingly beautiful backdrop to my jog. Pines and cacti adorn the trail. Fresh air pulsates through my lungs. It takes awhile for my eyes to adjust to the rays of the sun; the world looks different when not illuminated by fluorescent bulbs. At the end of my journey, I address the issue of the rock. Upon freeing my wounded foot from its prison of pain, I find that my antagonist is what can only be described as a particularly large speck of dirt. It is too small to even be considered a pebble. I flick it away, just as I have now discarded the insignificant worries that were prodding my mind.