I wrote this back in February, in the final stages of my training for the Rock n’ Roll half marathon in New Orleans. Since the Boston tragedy, my relationship with running has grown to become that much more meaningful, and my sentiments toward crossing the finish line, that much more heartfelt. And so, in the spirit of National Running Day, may we all unite and run today for those who are no longer able. May we all reflect upon and share in the beautiful community that is like nothing else. The beautiful community experience that is running.
And what it all boils down to is this.
I grew up with running more than I grew up with anything else.
Running and I date all the way back to the jogging stroller. In fact, my earliest memory (of my entire existence) occurred in the infamous jogging stroller at a local road race. It was a chilly day and the rain pelted down with force, while stampedes of runners gathered eagerly at the start. There I was, ready to take off right along with the rest of them, bundled up in the stroller, and shielded by my clip-on umbrella that stood firmly in place to ward off the rain drops. “Faster mommy faster,” I yelled as she pushed me along in front of her.
While my relationship with running began with the jogging stroller, my parents’ involvement with running dates back far beyond my birth. Prior to the mere thought of my existence, my parents were avid marathon runners. Running in what I now consider to be nothing more sturdy than bedroom slippers, they trained relentlessly and religiously day in and day out. My dad balanced training amidst days of teaching and late nights of band jobs. My mom worked in her training runs after dark, at the close of her long days at Baptist Hospital. They lived to run and ran to live, and both completed numerous marathons during the height of their running, including the esteemed Boston.
After outgrowing the jogging stroller, I progressed to the one mile “fun” runs, at which my mom would hold my hand and gently (yet firmly) pull me along, ensuring I didn’t trip and fall when the gun sounded and the crowd furiously stormed ahead.
Midway through my elementary years came my involvement with jogging club. Here, under the lead of my mother, I upped my way to running a 5K. Before I knew it, I was joining a more competitive running team, where I found myself marveling at the summer sunset, while huffing and puffing my way around the track. Although our competitive relay team made it all the way to nationals, I remained at the last of the pack.
Still, all the while I felt what came naturally for my parents, didn’t for me. I proclaimed I would never be a “runner.” I would never be like my parents. I would never love it like that. I didn’t want to love it like that. I didn’t want to love running, period.
In middle school, my running was limited to my halfhearted showing during the annual presidential fit test to bust out an adequate mile time, only in an attempt to try and prove I was slightly less painfully awkward than I actually was. In high school I ran to “stay in shape” for soccer, whatever that meant, or perhaps it was because my mom pushed for a cross country team, at the start of which I was one of only two female members. Immediately post high school and throughout the bulk of my college years, my running toggled between being sporadic, sparse and just plain nonexistent. Be it ailments such as mono and salmonella, periods of traveling, balancing school with long work weeks, or simply giving in to late nights, I was an expert at finding reasons not to run.
In 2010 my tonsils were cut out and I was suddenly able to breathe like I had never imagined was possible. I went from being under the knife and in the most terrible weeklong pain of my life, to training and completing my first half marathon in less than two months time. This effort to make a valiant push and prove to myself that I could accomplish what felt like such a feat at the time, changed my entire attitude toward running. For the first time I understood how my parents felt when they crossed the finish line, time and time again. For the first time I could see how someone could love running. For the first time, I loved running.
Running is cathartic. Running has helped me make it through days when I haven’t wanted to do anything but fall apart and not pick up the pieces. If I can make it through this run, I can make it through [insert hardship/battle/plight here]. There is something about overcoming a physical struggle that allows your mind to channel this same positive energy and level of focus and determination into dealing with whatever hardship you are facing.
March of last year I completed the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans. I teared up at the start. I teared up while running. I teared up crossing the finish line. I never imagined I would grow to become so emotionally involved with and committed to running. But there I was. And here I am.
I currently find myself in what I will refer to as the “sprint to the finish” portion of my training for my second go at the Rock N’ Roll Half, and what will be my fourth half marathon to date (once I cross that finish line). I have my sights firmly planted on achieving a personal record, that is, crossing the finish line in under 2 hours time.
UPDATE: I cried tears of joy when I saw the finish line in City Park and finished with an official time of 1:57:41.
Although there is a vast amount of individual dedication that goes along with running, the community atmosphere that surrounds running is equally, if not more, commendable and inspiring. There exists an aura about it, and a level of interconnectedness, that you don’t find everywhere.
If you really want to know someone, go running with them. Running strips you down to the basics. It humbles you at your core, and puts you on the same playing field as everyone around you. Running is something over which my family shares an irreplaceable bond that I infinitely cherish. Running has become something I wouldn’t trade for the world. And I pray I never have to.
Running and I are in a long distance relationship. And we’re just getting more and more serious.
image – Shutterstock