Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Born to Run

You know, I'm honestly and pleasantly surprised at how much I'm getting into running.  And not just because its exercise or something to do or meditation or sanity-saving or adrenaline producing or any of those other things that running is starting to be to me.  I'm also getting into it as a Sport. 

This is weird for me on so many levels, but mainly because I've never really 'gotten into' a sport.  In fact, I've generally been pretty "anti:"  I hate American football more than anything.  I'd rather have a root canal than have to sit through a football game.  Basketball is dumb and I really can't stand watching men play especially because every time they go up for a shot or a rebound all you see is huge pastures of armpit hair.  Baseball is almost as boring as golf which is slightly less exciting than watching grass grow.

That leaves hockey and soccer, which I can tolerate and sometimes even enjoy if its something exciting (like the Stanley or World Cup) or its happening live right in front of me.  But I would never say I was "into" either of them. 

But running.  Its something different all together.  Its tough.  Its about mental and physical endurance and tenacity and individual strength and determination.  I found a pile of back issues of Runner's World at a garage sale a few weeks ago for a quarter a piece and snatched them up.  Once home, I poured over them, reading each of them cover to cover and then flipping back through.  I couldn't stop!  The more I learn, the more I "get into" it, the more Runners inspire me. 

Take Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry. She entered the famous race in 1967 using her intials of K.V. Switzer, 5 years before women would be officially allowed to compete.    Once she received her number and began running, and it was clear that she was female, a race official forcibly tried to remove her from the race.  She literally ran away from him (with some help from her boyfriend who was running with her) and completed the 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 20 minutes.  She later went on to win the New York City Marathon in 1974 with a time of 3:07:29.

Then there's Deena Kastor, an Olympian Marathoner, U.S. record holder and all around bad ass.   She's 5'4", 104 lbs. and one of the best distance runners in the world.  She's come back after injuries to run her heart out achieve personal bests and set U.S. record times.   She's one tough little cookie. 

I watched this movie the other day, which features these women, and many other runners and realized that I'm hooked.   I got all misty at several points in the film, thinking about all the hard work and determination that each runner must have to finish such a long distance.   Running long distances is hard and its lonely. Its grueling and not especially glamourous.  It takes time and energy and a willpower that I just don't think everyone has.

But its also rewarding.  Running is inspiring, fortifying, spiritual.

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When I was in High School, I ran cross-country.  It was easy for me.  3.2 miles is nothing and as a 16 year old, I had great times.  I won female athlete of the year once.  But then I discovered Boys.  And Indie Rock.  And Tom Robbins.  And smoking and drinking and joy riding and all those other things young people do.  And I left running behind and didn't look back.

My dad, on the other hand, has always been a runner.  Always.  Rain, shine, snow, never mattered to him.  He was out there, running.  When I was running, we would sometimes run together, him pushing me to be stronger, faster. 

Then I Went Away.  Europe, college, marriage, baby...these were in the foreground.  Running was not.

This week, my dad came to visit.  I casually asked him if he'd like to go for a run.  His eyes shone.  We left at 6am, striding together through the early morning fog, discussing shoes and foot placement and proper form and how to build speed.  It felt like I was 16 again, running along side the first man who ever loved me, the first man who saw what I could truly be.

It was good to be back.


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