Like reading a favorite book on a regular basis, what’s unique and compelling about music is that multiple listens of a favorite song can spark fresh insight and revelation about life. A few days ago, I found this to be true once more with a tune by Thousand Foot Krutch: “The End Is Where We Begin” (2012). This hard rock hit references the spiritual, but I realized that the title alludes to the circular motion of running.
If you take a moment to visualize a circle, you might ask yourself where the starting point and ending point are located. The distance (circumference) of a circle can be calculated with a straightforward formula (C = π · d), but I’ll steer clear of mathematics for the sake of this article and focus on running. Here’s another illustration to supplement the circle: a finish line.
What thoughts surface when you think about a finish line? My mind goes to completion, resolution, and finality. The miles, however many there may have been, have come and gone and finally yielded to the end of a hard fought physical and mental struggle. In fact, I’m reminded of a word I first learned in ninth grade language arts – denouement. As it pertains to a foot race, “the outcome of a complex sequence of events” finally arrives. In short, the denouement is the end.
The finish line denotes finality, but like a circle, is it not also the starting line for the next finish line? I suppose that hinges on who you ask and their respective perspective on the way that running should be approached. There are those that live by the “Always in Training” mantra you might see emblazoned on a Nike or Under Armour shirt.
This phrase lends itself to these types of runners. They are focused. The end of one race becomes a footnote to the next one on the calendar. They may savor the finish line for a few hours or even a day, but their sights are set on what the next race will look like and how they can improve upon their performance (as it is likely to be heavily scrutinized). These runners undoubtedly inspire me, but I tend to fall on the side of those who think differently about the finish line.
There are also runners who cross the finish line and see it as just that – a finish. I’m reminded of a quote by Dean Karnazes, the renowned ultramarathon runner. “Runs end. Running doesn’t.” A race, even though its typically defined by a faster pace, is still a single run that inevitably ends. Running, in contrast, doesn’t end. Therefore, if the race turns out to be a bust, you can learn from it and apply the wisdom later. In summary, keep running because you love running.
The end is where we begin. That’s what is unique about running. When I step out the front door and go for a run, I know that I will inevitably return home. I may explore new territory by going down a road or trail I’ve never traversed before, but I will end where I began – like a circle. I’m returning to the start.
Incidentally, the Roman philosopher Seneca echoes the very words I’ve discussed thus far. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Dan Wilson of Semisonic references this remark in the 1998 smash hit “Closing Time.” This is the essence of graduating too, be it middle school, high school, or college. Commencement is the end of one journey and the start of another. So it is with running. Each mile is a precursor to the next, and those miles bring us one step closer to the finish line – or is it the starting line?
I've come full circle.