I started running in 5th grade. I joined this "long distance" community ed class that just had us running "indian runs" which meant running in a single file line with three to four other kids. You would then take turns leading the line. I took it with my friend Allison and we were really excited to run every time, but one of our teammates was a certified sand bagger. Every time he lead, he slowed down to nearly a walk, smirking. We, in turn, sped up way passed a comfortable pace when we lead, smirking. It wasn't the first time I fought back against entitled boy-idiots. Three years later I would memorize the rap names of each member of the Wu Tang Clan because the leader of the most sought after choir picnic committee said I couldn't join until I was able to name all members. I still remember, Mike Cartell.
I've had a sordid relationship with running ever since 5th grade. My perfection always had me wanting to be better but I would get frustrated by not being able to go fast, right away. My mom's only experience with running was having to take the police fitness test for her job as a private detective (grocery and department stores). Yet another reminder of how totally rad my mother was.
"Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth," she would say. "And think of something silly." It had nothing to do with running better, but it calmed me down when I was trying to be perfect.
8th Grade Bronco, 3rd String Relay!
By middle school, I joined track and field with my friends, but spent the majority of the time in the athletic trainers office for knee problems. I was told I had "weak knees" and was given a set of exercises that I found to be even more painful than running. Being a 3rd string relay member was kind of humiliating and the only time I ever got a good run in was after icing all practice. I ran for fun in high school, especially when I began dating a cross country runner. I kept it up in college intermittently but the freshman fifteen came unexpectedly and I developed shin issues. Someone (I was dating) pointed out to me that shin splints happen when, "you're running flat or you're running fat." I had top of the line running shoes with great arch support, so..
Cool. Not helpful.
I moved to Chicago when I was 20 and spent most of my friendless free time running by the Lincoln Park Zoo. I lived in a studio apartment by myself where I wrote, did homework, drank too much coffee and did yoga every night. I just wrote and ran and was fortunate enough to not have to work. I had this strange view of a dentist's office and I would write stories about their interactions, setting myself up for exponentially loathing the dentist. It was a magical 6 months and the only way I could live in a big city by myself without having anxiety attacks every morning. Running has been and continues to be an incredible anxiety reliever.
Somewhere in 2012, my friends asked me to run a marathon relay with them. The word "relay" conjured up being a giant dork in middle school, so I was hesitant. My leg of the relay would be 5.95 miles. I had about 4 months to get in running shape and although I never really felt "prepared" it was an incredible time. I found out I was so much more capable of what I thought I was. And going through training with friends was a good time.
2012 Glass City Marathon Relay, 4th Leg, Turtle-Slow.
So when my friend Whitney asked me if I wanted to run a half marathon this year in June, I said yes without hesitation. I ran with Paul while he was preparing for a pack test to be a wildland firefighter last spring, but I got frustrated really fast. The lack of running for at least two years and the change in altitude had me quit before I could even finish a mile. And it didn't help that I had this lumberjack of a husband casually jogging with 45 pounds strapped to his back, barely breaking a sweat. But since January, I've started small and gave up feeling like I need to go "fast." I've just focused on distance. I've slowly felt stronger, able to run upstairs without feeling out of breath, my hiking has improved immensely, and although I don't feel like I'm ready, I feel like I'm on the road to getting somewhere.
Just like skiing, running is so mental. I have had weeks in my training where I'll run 4 miles easily, and two days later, barely finish a mile. This last weekend, I set myself up to run 6 miles, more than I've ever attempted to run, and way more than I've attempted in three years.
I struggled to get past the 4th mile and I wanted to quit. There were unexpected hills and I felt like I was failing. I kept freaking out about my time, how slow I was going up the hills, how I started feeling pain in my shins again (am I flat or fat?!). But then it just came to me. My mother's advice for breathing when running, mainly, "Think of something silly." I thought about when Oatmeal sticks out his tongue. It makes me laugh so much. And I ran the best mile since I've been training and simultaneously nearly falling over with gratitude and love and tears.
Not Oatmeal, but you get the point. Hilarious.
When my mom passed away, so many people always tried to comfort me with, "She's with you." And I just always rejected that because it's hard for me to feel that. Because I can't see her. I can't talk to her. I can't laugh with her. The mom I knew isn't with me. But now I think I realize what they were saying.
For the motherless children out there, and unfortunately I know many, don't ever forget that she's with you always. Because you are her. She is you. That's how the parent/child thing works. And I truly believe I wouldn't have been able to finish that run without her.
That 6 mile run was brought to you by the amazing memory of my mother. And Rich Homie Quan "Type of Way," a filthy song my mother would be horrified that I listen to.
Me and Mom in those FILA days...