If you head a couple miles down Main Street, north of my hometown’s library, and take a slight left past the cemetery, you’ll hit Knickerbocker Road — which is on a steep hill. It’s about a quarter-mile trek to the top, but once you’re past the peak, you’re rewarded with a hell of a view. If it’s sunset, a golden layer of light blankets down sloping corn husks, which, after a thousand meters or so, seamlessly blend into a background of forest green; it extends for miles. The immediate area past Knickerbocker’s peak is picturesque to say the least — the view is complemented by its forgiving decline which lets you glide down the winding sidewalk until you’re eventually guided back to town.
When I was in peak running form, I’d always plan a route up Knickerbocker Hill. I’d start from my house, and about three miles into the run, the real trek would begin. That was always the hardest part, because any prior exhaustion or soreness was compounded by Knickerbocker’s incline. My chest would burn, and my thighs would ache, but as soon as I was greeted by that view, it all became worth it.
As weird as this may sound, Knickerbocker Hill taught me a lot about how to get through life’s challenges. It helped me wrap my head around difficult times, and the inevitable relief that usually waits just around the corner.
Similar to that strenuous quarter-mile hike it takes to get up Knickerbocker Hill’s incline, life’s tough times can be acutely painful. Maybe your heart has been broken or high stakes deadlines are beginning to pile up, but a solace in all those hardships is the possibility that relief is just around the corner. When I’m in the thick of hard times, I try to visualize that moment when I’m metaphorically past the peak, when I’m greeted with that wonderful view. The pain of the moment motivates me to keep pushing toward the possibility of a brighter future.
The grief of losing a loved one or the stress of dealing with deadlines really isn’t so different from the soreness in my thighs that comes from running up Knickerbocker Hill. Those moments of trauma are definitely of a different magnitude than the pain of running, but their durations are on a similar scale: They’re all temporary. So, I always try to use the metaphorical “getting past the peak” moment as fuel to make it up the hill in the first place. There’s a certain level of emotional reprieve that comes with associating the difficult feelings of a tough time with the priceless moment of relief that arrives once you’ve endured enough, and that’s always been enough to keep me pushing.
Much like finally being greeted with that wonderful view at the top of Knickerbocker Hill, there’s a similar reward when you’ve finally made it past a difficult span of life. Maybe you finally got through an exam you’ve been dreading for weeks, or you woke up one morning and found that the grief of losing a loved one isn’t as heavy as it was before. Either way, the relief that ties moments like this together are priceless. Much like how endorphins numb my soreness, and the view I’m greeted with absorbs my entire being for a few precious moments, the immediate fruits of making it past a tough time in your life often make you feel invincible, as if you’ve always felt this great. Just attaining that feeling for a second makes a lifetime’s worth of struggle feel worthwhile.
My father used to love running long distances, but he hasn’t been able to since tearing his meniscus. I live with paranoia that the genetic lottery will hand me the same fate as my father, but that fear has also taught me to run while I can. I’m gonna keep running up that hill and find those views, because living any other way just wouldn’t be possible.