I started running when I was fifteen years old. It’s not a true inspirational story but there was a why to how it all began. In high school I wasn’t the most devoted individual when it came to boys that I adorned with the title “boyfriend” and to tell the absolute truth I got caught kissing someone else. At fifteen hormones are just going everywhere and having come out of my awkward middle school phase my sophomore year, I was happy to have the attention. Well, once I was busted, I got dumped and it was well deserved. When I found out that my now ex-boyfriend joined cross-country, I thought it would be the perfect way to accidentally spend time with him. And so I signed up without much thought, thinking it would be an easy activity. I had run a lot when I played soccer and assumed that it would come naturally. Running is just moving your legs back and forth, right? My first practice was a bit of an eye opener, what I first found out was that the boys and the girls barely interacted, seeing one another only at meets. Practices were completely separate and there was no time for casual conversation. There were two coaches, one whose name I do not remember because he was a little nicer and then the head coach, Mr. O’Donnell. (he was also a physics teacher, yikes.) This man was no joke and immediately made the beginners start running around the field to see where we were at. I was clearly a disappointment. How do I know? Well, he told me so.
I wanted to quit. Right away. But I knew I would look stupid and in fact, that is mostly what has kept me running all these years, not wanting to look stupid. Just kidding, there’s more to it than that.
The season went slowly and after a series of moments where Mr. O’Donnell was in my face telling me not to quit I learned how to run properly. I went from a meager .25 miles to a stunning and graceful 10. What kept me going was the encouragement of the strong females around me. The more experienced folk telling me never to quit, don’t walk, keep going, whatever you do just keep going. One day, a very poignant lady told me: “Endurance is when your body gives out and your heart takes over” definitely a little stolen from a Nike commercial but I didn’t care. It made perfect sense. Running is mind over matter. And once I figured that out I was all in it. Along with the pack, I would roll my sleeves up, embrace the sweat and literally, just do it.
To date, I have been running for thirteen years, with some large gaps in between. There have been weeks and sometimes months that I have needed a break from it. Like a relationship, I needed some time to myself to regroup. What I have figured out though, over the years, is that I am not on a search for perfection. I am not trying to run a marathon. I am not on a mission to be faster than all the rest. I am, however, seeking out that quiet place that running allows me to visit, if only for a short while. It’s a time when all my thoughts are gone, as I am coming down the hill, collecting myself, I just embrace what is around me and sometimes smile at the thought that I just made it to the top. For me, as I have told dozens of people, running is spiritual. The shoes I choose give me strength, the music I listen to makes me believe and as I am doing it, with my feet on that pavement, I am able to sort through all the piles of shit in my brain that clutter my space. I also take the time to look around. My favorite thing is running at dawn, when else, can I see such beauty and with no one else near me? It’s a rare thing and I love it.
Recently, I have been running with a friend who once told me she had no endurance. This morning she made is 2.5 miles without stopping. We had with us, another friend who I consider a natural athlete. And truly, I was proud of us all. I don’t know if they realize it but running with them inspires me just as much as I maybe inspire them. It holds me accountable and pushes me harder. It’s something I need because sometimes I forget how much I love to run. When I see her make it up that hill, when I know there use to be self-doubt there, I feel incredible for her. I know that feeling and I am so glad that she gets to experience it. Thirteen years has meant a lot of people like her that I have talked up that hill. But this morning, when we all did it in unison, might have been my favorite.
In life, there are so few things that we hold in such high regard. This is mine. An eternal flame that will never go out.
I encourage you all to try it some time.
Here are some of my favorite running items:
Nike Pegasus Running Shoe
Every year they change this shoe and it’s always great. It saved me from almost giving up running completely.
A great way to see where you are and how you are doing along the route.
Maine Running Company
You walk, they pick out a shoe. Incredibly helpful staff who seem to know just about everything.
Great gear for getting out there, especially in the pants department. The right running pants can make all the difference.