I had a post in mind for today. I planned on doing just one more thing before blogging. Instead I got distracted by cleaning my kiddo’s room, and by the time I got back, the news broke about the bombings at the finish line of today’s Boston marathon.
I’m wearing the running shoes I wore for my last race.
My runner’s heart is sad, very sad.
So I’m going to pause my previously scheduled blog post and do what makes sense at times like this: hold my loved ones close and hope for a better tomorrow for everyone. Especially those runners who laced up their shoes today.
I have a dog. Charlie is his name. Aside from a few traumatic times in his life such as being homeless and when someone who shall be unnamed amputated his tale in the door, he’s had a pretty great life. We buy him the kibble he likes best, mix it with the wet food he likes best, and then add bits and pieces of steak or pork chops while begging him to end his latest hunger strike. We had to get a bigger couch to accommodate his napping needs. And he has many, many dog toys strewn about the house, yard and even the couch. I mean, what about his life doesn’t sound pretty great, aside from the hygiene techniques and hot sidewalks?
If I could be Charlie, I’d love it. Well, I’d love a few aspects of it, especially the running bit.
Back in August I signed up to do my first 10k race. It seemed like a good idea at the time, what with a really fun Hood to Coast under my runner’s belt. The fact that I signed up for The Great Columbia Crossing on a day when the sun was shining and my thermometer read 89 degrees most likely influenced my decision to run a race that starts at a place named “Dismal Nitch.” Amazing how perspective makes all the difference in just about everything.
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.
Technically, “Still Running” is the team name I’ll be running with for Hood to Coast 2011. But it’s apropos today because I’m still running, even though it doesn’t always feel like something I want to do. Every time I lace up my shoes in spite of not feeling like it, I am reminded of why I run…because it frees me from the frustrations of my day. Running allows me to escape my demons for a few miles. But sometimes, running is also a reminder of those demons.
When I was a middle schooler, I went out for track. Because my dad thought it would improve what he labelled as my athletic deficiencies, I laced up my already well-worn KMart shoes and headed out to the field one spring day. I practiced a variety of events and improved my general cardio fitness throughout the season. Each practice started out with a short run and then we practiced our individual events. I wasn’t the first runner back from each run, but I wasn’t the last either. Even in middle school I ran just ahead of the turtles. It mattered a bit to me that I wasn’t fast, but I liked the act of running more. I liked being outside in the sun, the feel of the sun on my skin, the sound of my shoes and my breath in a smooth cadence of motion. However, it was clear to all that I was no “runner” like some of the other kids.
I went for a run between rain showers on Saturday and as is normal for me, my “monkey mind” calmed and my thoughts soon matched my breathing. Usually I think about my novel and bits and pieces of plot that need reworking. But on Saturday I thought about Mother’s Day and where I was last year as a mother. (You can read about it here if you like.) And somewhere along the path it occurred to me that running is quite a bit like mothering, or at least the act of becoming a mother.