Monday night I went out for a run. The sun was just right and I caught my reflection in the windows of the library as I ran past. Mentally I paused. On one hand, I’m still packing around more weight than I’d like. But I’m also stronger and faster than I was. It really is all about perception, isn’t it? If I had recently lost 100 pounds, I would have looked at those running legs and thought “Yeah Baby!” And if I had recently gained 30 pounds, I would have looked at those very same legs and been frustrated. Instead, I looked at those legs and thought, “Well, they might not be skinny but they are running!”
It is tempting to look for the worst in ourselves. Often, we are absolutely incapable of cheering for ourselves, instead saving our pom poms for others we perceive more worthy. But that perception is no more valid of a reflection of the truth than my reflection in the library’s windows. No matter how lean or lumpy a runner looks, or how fast or slow a runner runs, then very act of running makes them a runner and that is cause for celebrations complete with pom poms and cow bells.
Last year when my husband asked me if he could register our church for a team to run the 2011 Hood to Coast, I said, “Sure thing honey.” You know I was banking on it not happening, but it did. So we put together a team, Still Running, and folks began training for this weekend’s annual installment of the world’s longest relay race.
I really like our team name. It comes from the national UCC ad campaign from a few years back (Still Speaking) but it works for even the folks on the team who don’t attend our church. It works because we are all still running, regardless of whether we might appear like runners. We are running because the very act of running, races or not, means something to us.
Some of us are running because it is our meditation. Some of us are running because we have a “bucket list” item we are wanting to check-off. Some of us are running to get into better cardio-vascular health. And some of us are running because it seemed like a fun thing to try. I am running, still, because running gives me the time and space to feel alive. But I am also still running because I can, one foot at a time, run a distance that others cannot and I can do it in the name of an organization I believe in.
Each of the 15,000 runners and 5,400 walkers (they start in Portland) have been training for months, through blisters and shin splints and blackened toe nails and whatever. And many will be like me and are running injured.
On the 14th I fell down my stairs. I fell only three steps but it was enough that I landed with a good thump. And there is one truth about 42 year olds: we don’t bounce back the same way we did in decades past. And while my back appears to be in pretty good shape for this race, the back pain is a bit worrisome.
So today, while you are reading this post, there is a good chance I’m either running or getting ready to run. I am running a total of 16.5 miles via legs 12, 24, and 36. Our estimates put me running at 2:30 Friday afternoon, 2:30 Saturday morning and then again at 1:30 Saturday afternoon.
If you happen to be in Seaside on Saturday afternoon as I run our team in (I run the last leg of the race), you will see a 42 year old woman, bandaged and hurting, but running. It may look more like a slow jog to you, but remember it’s all about perception.
Because I will still be running.