When I was in the 7th grade, we had to run the mile in our gym class. We ran around the green football field on a warm, sunny day, and as I passed my gym teacher, she said, Jenny (because people used to call me Jenny), I think we've finally found something you can do! Some people might have taken offense to that, but that one sentence made me light up; it made me smile; it made me believe in myself as others stopped to walk and I kept running. See, I wanted to play basketball, and be a gymnast, and be in dance, and be a cheerleader. I wanted to be able to hit the softball when it was pitched to me. I couldn't do any of those things. I was really short; afraid of the balance beam and parallel bars; uncoordinated, awkward and clumsy. But this running thing? I could do it. And I could do it pretty well.
This last Sunday, I ran in my only race of the year; the half-marathon that winds around on my favorite running trail. I wish I could say the weather was perfect and sunny with not a cloud in the sky, but it was cold, and a little bit rainy, and the last half mile I was met with a cold, bitter wind blowing straight in my face. Not one of those things mattered, though. I wasn't looking to beat my personal record; I didn't even try. My running is in a new season, and that includes running while pushing the jogging stroller; winding around the glorious trail, pushing a 30 pound toddler up and down the hills while she sings (and occasionally screams at me that she needs to get out and walk right now!!!). We never make it past 6 1/2 miles, and we never break any speed records, but that doesn't matter, because I'm running, in the sunshine and beautiful fresh air and that's a good season to be in.
When I was running on Sunday, I kept thinking about how this running thing got started for me, and how my high school track coach encouraged me to keep going one particular track meet when I wanted to quit, and told him I didn't feel well, but really I was just nervous. Thanks to him, I learned to channel my nervousness into my running. Today, I do that with a lot of emotions. I channel the highs and lows of parenthood into my running; the good and the bad; things I didn't mean to say and wish I could take back, the impatience, the laughter, the frustration, the funny, the glum...it's my saving grace, my therapy session, my talk with God, my love affair with everything beautiful in nature. When I'm running, nothing else matters.
I saw my old high school coach on Sunday about 1/4 of a mile before the finish line. I don't think he saw me or if he did, he probably didn't recognize me. I thought back to his words of wisdom, with his hands on my shoulders, saying, if you're really sick, you don't have to run, but I know you aren't sick, and I know you're going to do great, but the decision is yours, and I don't want you to regret it if you don't run...and there is never a day when I run and regret it.
Full circle, baby.
My son took this photo after the race. My official time was 1:57:43.
All other photos were taken with my DSLR.