Last March, I began training for a half-marathon with my friends, Kelli and Sarah.  Two kids, school, work, why not train for a half-marathon, right?  I’ll do it in my spare time.  My first step was to immediately create my running mix on my old iPod Shuffle and get movin’!  Prince, George Michael, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Journey, rock it!  I could run forever with these tunes pumping through my veins. 

Then, it happened.  My runs became longer and longer and if I had not remembered to charge my iPod to full power, my music would cut out.  The first time my music died, I actually stopped running for a moment, convinced my music was my power, my force.

I started back at it and completed my run in the stillness. I outran my music. 

Jogging the neighborhood with useless headphones on my head, I realized that I rarely have a moment without background noise.  At work, the grocery store, in the car, at home, my music is on.  When I was in fourth grade my parents bought me my own clock-radio and the first thing I did when I got home every day was turn it on and sing along.  That routine has stayed with me to this day. My friends wonder how I know the words to so many songs. Well, when you have background music filling up the silence of your entire life, you learn a lot of lyrics. 

When I first had to run without music, it was difficult.  I got really distracted by my own breathing; almost felt I couldn’t keep up with it. Then, as my breath became my center, the thoughts started popping up. My beliefs. My ideas. My hopes and regrets. It was amazing how loud the silence became! Many days I came home and had to write all of my thoughts down. During some runs I would start tearing up.  Surely the neighbors thought I was nuts, but they didn’t know I was growing. 

Running without distraction created time in my day and in my life for self-reflection and development of creative ideas. It helped me to learn who I am and what I thought about everyday little things and even about big things.  Having these little moments to sort through my own ideas and inner wisdom started to affect my life. I felt calmer, more focused.  With each run I felt stronger – emotionally and spiritually stronger.  I really began looking forward to my runs. 

I am so blessed to have lived what Hermann Hesse wrote about, “within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”  My running was my own “busy person’s retreat.”  I was in my head and in touch with my spirit, hearing only the truth through my stream of consciousness. Learning who I AM. 

Early this summer, I  completed my half-marathon, 13.1 miles, in three hours and four minutes.  I ran the entire thing without headphones or distractions (other than my two friends cheering me on and screaming like holler monkeys). There were no motivational songs or theme music. Just me, my thoughts and my strength.  Every step of the way, I knew I “gotta have faith” and not the George Michael kind.  I called upon the faith of those who “run and (do) not grow weary” and “walk and (do) not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:31).   

(Weber is a mother of two sons. Her family belongs to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on Milwaukee’s South Side.)