A long time ago, after many failed attempts at trying to make my family sportingly proud, I took to the only sport that didn’t require me to dribble, kick, or throw a ball. I took to long distance running. I won’t say I was great, but I was good and distance running came surprisingly easy to me, the one kid who always finished last in sprints, in pretty much anything that one would file under the title “sport.” It wasn’t that I had to be sporty. My family accepted me just fine. Still, my sibs were way more sporty than me. My brother played hockey and baseball and did just fine. My sister, well she probably got the most sporty genes of all of us and the looks and the smarty genes, but that’s a whole other blog.
The first time I took to the roads, though, I felt something liberating. I ran two miles. I was surprised how good I felt. The next day I ran four. I was training for my first road race, the Dixboro Fun Run, held in the small hamlet of Dixboro. My dad signed me and my sporty brother, who was running for wrestling training, up for the race. I think I trained for about a week. I ran the two-mile and surprised myself by finishing first in my age-group and second overall female. I got hardware. At that point, I hadn’t really ever won anything sporty in my life. Well, I think there was a softball championship in there, but I never felt I contributed that much to the team. Softball was torture.
After that race, I craved road racing. I ran all the time. My neighbors came to know me as the girl who was always running. One of the older boys who used to hang out in the neighborhood used to call me Champ. He said I was going to be a champion one day. I never knew his name. He will never know how good that made feel, some strange boy urging me on. Parents in the neighborhood urged me on, too. Someone would inevitably catch me coming into our tiny subdivision at the end of the run and ask how far I’d gone that day. Some would laugh and tell my parents they saw me in the next town 10 miles away. You could say I became a little obsessed. I loved running. I ran track and cross country. Ultimately, though, my favorite were the road races I ran. I loved the community that surrounds road racing. Everyone was so encouraging, especially to women runners who really were just making inroads into the sport. I was always pacing with some group of guys because the women were spread so far apart and they were all welcoming.
I ran a little in college, but by that point I wasn’t good enough for college running. I ran two marathons and came close to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, my dream at the time. At some point, life got in the way. Kids came. I had other things I needed to do. With kids came a few stubborn pounds. I never got back to running like I used to.
More than five years ago came the devastating news that I had cancer. My treatment regime was long and hard on my body. It took a long time to recover. I still am not sure I have fully recovered. This summer, however, I wanted to get back in shape, if nothing. Every time I say I am going to start walking, I end up running. I also needed to help Maynard the Wonder Dog lose a few pounds. He came to us on a diet. He is now my jogging partner. I started in the spring. It has been a struggle. I’m slow, much slower than I used to be. It’s much harder than it used to be. I think I have been running two miles since spring and it has felt hard and tiring since spring. Today, though, I felt the shift. The one that I used to feel after only a week or two, the shift that helped me see I was really back, that running was what I was supposed to be doing. Yes, I felt it. My feet didn’t shuffle as much. I kicked my heels a little more. I kept a pace, still not fast, but faster, more importantly more comfortable than running has felt in eons. I had gotten to a point where I thought I’d never feel that.
For me, there is a strong connection between the endurance and persistence of hitting the pavement or trails and the endurance and persistence needed to come to the page regularly and work through rejection and work through drafts. I love that they remind me of each other. I love that doing both makes me feel so good. Carry on. Endure. Persist. One foot. Two foot.