The second law of thermodynamics states that the universe tends toward disorder.

I grew up training as a classical musician, and in order to allow for maximal practice time, I led a most organized life. I existed within a bubble of meticulous control. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that my foundation of organized control crumbled. The rest of humanity probably understood this inevitable lack of control, this chaos, years or even a decade before I did.

But suddenly, I was twenty-two, out of college, working in a restaurant, and I felt like I was drowning. I had been so driven, and yet for the first time in my life, I didn’t know what was next. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live, how I would make my monthly student loan payments — and so, surrounded by disorder, I froze. I began drinking heavily, avoiding classical music, and distracting myself with mindless activities. I avoided everything that mattered to me.

The universe tends toward disorder.

Somehow in this disorder, I found running: one activity over which I could exercise complete control. I got out of it exactly what I put into it. And in those short times when running silenced me, leaving only the sound of my breathing and my feet rhythmically hitting the pavement, I slowly began to make plans, and my fear of disorder that had so paralyzed me began to thaw.

Within the next year, as I increased distance from 2 to 26.2 miles, I moved to a strange city in which I had always dreamed of living, I moved up in management at my job, I ended my relationship that wasn’t working, shed friends that treated me poorly, and I ran. Running saved me. And in this strange city, I found a group of runners that welcomed me. The Fishtown Beer Runners are regular people, or irregular people, who love to run and drink good beer. Mere mortals, many who have speed and grace, and many who have feet and a love of running. I saw these people, fast and slow, thin and thick, tall and small, run marathons, ultra marathons, the length of Rhode Island, and I felt how a community of runners can settle my soul. And inspire me to run any length at any pace. And when the rain poured on a Thursday, I knew the other beer runners would show up, and when my body was tired from marathon training, I knew the beer runners would understand, and when I was new to the area and wanted to make friends, I had hope to make beer running friends, and those hopes were realized. Running. And the fishtown beer runners. And the culture, it took all of the disorder and simplified it into one fluid motion, streamlining my body into a precise machine. This activity somehow felt so primal, and so necessary, that my body was made to run. The ritual of picking out the best socks, deciding which pair of shoes to wear, snagging my inhaler, house key, headphones, and energy gels, and then leaving everything else behind put me back in control and grounded me.

Hanna Strong