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Running from East to West

By Olivia Levitan, Class of 2024

As a current college sophomore in the COVID-19 era, I have had to create new and exciting traditions for myself. Mental and physical health has always been something that I try to prioritize for myself, but it hasn’t been the easiest to maintain in the midst of such a rigorous school like Duke.

In September, once the humidity decreased a bit and became slightly more bearable, I decided to start running again — a hobby I picked up last year.

Living on East Campus as a freshman, I would run the East Campus loop to decompress from the stress of being a first-year student. Now, living on West Campus, I wanted to change up my routine.

One day, I rallied up the motivation to run from West Campus to East Campus and back. I laced up my running shoes, put on my workout gear, pulled my hair into a tight pony, and walked to the chapel. Staring at the bus stop, I see hundreds of students cramming to get onto the buses. I take a deep breath and begin my descent.

Starting off with a light jog from the bus stop, I make my way down the long straight path of Chapel Drive that leads to the roundabout. I am extremely conscious of how I look in the first few minutes, as every single bus passes by me.

Don’t breathe too much!

Keep your form.

I wonder who is on that bus…

Are they watching me?

Oh no, I hope I don’t look like I’m struggling too much.

Eventually, after passing the first roundabout, my self-conscious thoughts begin to fade away. I focus on my breath and take in the surroundings.

It feels good to feel my body move with each stride. Looking ahead, I see the beautiful buildings across campus. I feel power as I run, leaving all of the stress behind me as I run forward. It brings comfort knowing I am in full control of my body, even if school and stress can often seem to take over.

I keep running and pass the Rubenstein Arts Center, aka “the Ruby”. I glance at the beautiful glass building, standing proudly. Luckily, there’s a downhill portion at this point of my route. My speed increases as gravity takes over, and I run down the hill.

I slow down a bit and my running turns into a brisk walk. The different trees surrounding me on my journey remind me that I am in North Carolina, far from my home. However, I have been able to make Duke a new home through the community I have immersed myself in.

Another C-1 bus passes by. However, I feel strong and confident as I continue on my path.

Finally, I reach the Free Expression Bridge. I’ve made it to East Campus. The colorful graffiti fills every portion of the wall, and I examine it closely, appreciating all the beautiful artwork before turning around and heading back to West.

This weekly run has brought routine into my busy life as a student. Often, when I feel like I don’t have control of my situation, my run between the campuses grounds my thoughts. The solitude allows me to reflect and appreciate all of the chaos (and excitement) of being a Duke student while also allowing myself to focus on my well-being for the thirty or forty minutes it takes to run across Duke’s beautiful campus.



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