Time stops and speeds up all in the same moment.
The instant I feel the lift, I know it's coming. The roar of traffic ends. The music pumping through my headphones stops. There is no sound. The breeze freezes and all is still. I am the only thing moving in this frozen universe. I can feel all my weight sail towards the ground. So many questions pass through my mind as the sidewalk slams into my body. How is this happening? How do I fix this? I'm moving in slow motion, but it happens so fast I am powerless to stop it.
Then the collision and everything returns. Cars whiz by. Rihanna wails into my ears. The wind whips at my shredded knees as I roll over and stare at the moving clouds.
I can't believe I just fell. I take inventory of my limbs and know that I have skinned knees and burned hands. And an elbow. I touch it gingerly. Ouch. Yeah, the elbow is bad.
Then I'm shaking, and tears are pushing out of my eyes. A moment ago I was running. Halfway done, and now I'm lying here, kicked around by cement, crying and shaking.
I wipe my eyes and stand up, suddenly aware that people probably saw this happen and how stupid I must look. But no one's around. Just cars zooming by on their way to wherever. Everyone too busy and focused on their own road to insert themselves into mine. Someone was probably talking on the phone and stopped mid-sentence to say "Holy shit, some girl just ate it on the sidewalk." But he's long gone, traveling 50 mph on his way to begin his day.
I stand there, figuring out what I'm supposed to do next. My world just crashed and I'm only halfway done. I'm as far from home and a shower and bandages and a hug or kind word as possible. So I run. It burns, but I run. Tears start and stop, but I run. I'm staring at the ground, careful of every step, but I run. Because sitting on the sidewalk and crying isn't an option and walking will just take too long. I run.
That wasn't the first time I fell while running and it's happened since. I'm sure it will happen again. Always the same feelings and shock. Different spots but always the same situation. It never happens as I'm starting or finishing, always right there in the middle when I have no choice but to push through. No choice but to keep running.
And after it happens, it always takes me time to trust myself again. Those next few times out I'm less confident. Sure that every bump in the sidewalk or break in the asphalt will reach up and pull me down. My eyes stay glued to the spot in front of me. I ignore the deer grazing in a yard, or the kids riding their bikes, or the fox eyeballing me from across the street. I focus only on what I'm doing, one foot in front of the other. And that sucks. I might as well be running on a treadmill, going nowhere, staring at the stupid red numbers, waiting for the time to end.
It takes time for me to remember that we all fall down. It's not always easy to get back up and keep going. It would be much easier to sit on the corner, blowing on my skinned knees, crying into my red palms. But we don't, we can't. There's a lot more ground to cover. So many more miles to run. And if we spend those miles focused on not falling, we'll miss all the beauty and life that makes the run worthwhile.
We all fall down. What matters is if we get back up.