So, here’s my question: what is freedom? Is it something conferred on you before it becomes your reality? Even then, how does it change you?
One of my personal heroes is Harriet Tubman. She was born into slavery and after her escape at the age of twenty-seven, she would become a freedom fighter, a Union spy, nurse, and cook. She was the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad and never lost a traveler. She said upon realizing the moment she’d crossed the line to freedom, she looked at her hands to see if she was still the same person.
Sometimes when I’m running trails and climbing mountains, I think about Harriet and the resources she must have called on to navigate her way north – and south – without the benefit of tools we use like maps, tracking apps, wicking fabrics, water tablets, trail shoes, GPS. There’s freedom in knowing nature the way she did.
While we’re still in what I call the ‘soft’ stages of quarantine – I’m neither heading back to the office nor to restaurants anytime soon – most days I find solace on my runs. And sometimes, I find its opposite.
Ahmaud Arbery was a runner and, like me, he probably found freedom and greater well-being in his regular morning exercise. Like me, he probably felt alive and strong in his body, not bound by the grim updates of coronavirus news.
When I run, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the strength in my body and mind to carry me across the miles. There’s a sense of expansion and release in it that I imagine Ahmaud might have felt, as well. He could have been my brother, a nephew, a friend.