Last Spring, I watched a documentary about the women’s movement. It started with the story of Katherine Switzer who ran the Boston Marathon “illegally” in 1967 and then she ran it again in 2017. While standing in the back of the room watching the clip with my students, I cried a little when she talked about being a woman in sports in the late 1960s and how in running that first marathon in Boston she became a woman. She had not started the marathon with the intention to run on behalf of all women, but once her ability was called into dramatic question by the race’s organizer she had to finish the race. If you have not seen the clip yourself, you should: I dare you to tell me you did not get emotional watching this!
This 3 minute and 20 second clip sat with me. Then at the end of June my co-worker said he was signing up for a half-marathon in August in Rockport. I thought, “Why not?” It might seem silly but I felt very motivated to feel just a sliver of what Switzer articulated about being alone with one’s thoughts and about having to “grow up” a bit along the course of the run. Our minds are very powerful. When we feel weak and want to quit, that mind of ours usually knows exactly what to say: you have done enough, it is okay to stop, don’t worry about it, and maybe try again some other time. I wanted to sit with those thoughts, feel them in my muscles and fight agains them. It would be so empowering to turn the volume way down low on that negative self-talk and to take control and do something that felt a bit outrageous to me. I am not a runner. Prior to “training” for this half marathon, I had not run more than a mile here and there, if that. After having Owen, I had not really committed to any consistent form of exercise feeling too sleep deprived and now that little guy turned 1 in April. And, feeling still a bit out of sorts about not having control anymore over my reproductive future, I needed something to channel my anger, my sadness, and to get me out of fixated thoughts about no longer having babies while my friends seem to be wildly fertile these days and get my head into some different space. So I started running.
I am not a huge fan of the silence. It is scary (but I also don’t like listening to programed music). I don’t like the massive sweating or the sore feet after a long haul. Sometimes the sun is too hot or my breathing is too ragged. I am sure a running coach would have lots of tips and tricks and things to share with me about improving my gait or changing my shoes for a more pricey brand. But every few days, I hit the pavement and for the minutes (or even hours), I am alone with myself. I have to decided every time if I am going to commit to it, stop, or go. I have to decide the internal dialogue. At first it was always about feeling disempowered and rejected. But, as I got a little stronger, the dialogue became more positive and encouraging. It questioned how far I could go in a “I dare you to keep at it” kind of way. It might even say I enjoy it. I finished the half marathon on Sunday. My time was nothing to brag about, but the race was complete and I have an itch to try one again. Did it heal my broken heart? No. Did it help? A bit. So I guess that is a start and maybe the Fall will be a good time to feel those breezy temps on my skin and to keep working on growing up or at least outgrowing the mental obstacles I keep.