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Not only can, but do

This afternoon,
I ran for the first time
in months.

(Sometimes,
a girl’s just gotta
feel the wind against
her face as her feet
propel her
forward.)

Near the end
of my run, I saw
the woman who called
me a whore.

Her older
children stood
on the sidewalk,
and shouted after
me about the fat
white lady
jiggling.

I raised
a bird for them,
which shut them up.

And then,
when I reached
the opposite corner, I turned
around and ran back.

The boys jumped
back as I plowed
through. “Sorry,”
said one.

“Yeah,”
I said
as I
ran
on.

I
smiled,
looping
back on
the other
side of the
street.

Do they
think they
could possibly
say anything
I haven’t
already
heard
on
dozens
of
runs
before?

This
is
L.A.;
the only
way you
run is with
confidence
that no words
can hurt more
than running
heals.

I’ve run
two marathons,
and, barefoot,
a half marathon.

While they
sit idle and sling
harsh words, I’ll keep
running … running
toward something
better than
just sitting
around cars,
shouting
at the
people
who not
only can,
but
do.

Summited K2! Oh, wait.

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Running & a middle school boy’s wisdom

My son and husband are watching a televised track meet being held in my hometown.

My mom used to take my siblings running along that track. We were all fast runners, something I thought we’d inherited from our dad until my mom’s cousin exclaimed how fast she always ran.

I was in middle school the one and only time I was chosen first for a team. My P.E. teacher explained my class would be running various durations for the next several weeks. She’d pool each team’s time for each run and tally them at the end. The team ending the challenge with the shortest total running time would get a school store credit.

Tim, a quiet boy I knew only as a skater, was named a team leader. He was told he could choose before other team leaders. He named me without skipping a beat.

I was shocked. A weirdo in weird clothes, I was always chosen last or close to it. It never occurred to me that a middle schooler might choose teammates based not on popularity but skill. Indeed, many adults haven’t mastered this! Read more…

I could run!

I only started running because I didn’t want to waste time getting to the gym.

I hated it at first, but kept going because I liked how it made me feel afterward. My 20-minute runs gradually crept up to 60 and 90 minutes.

A couple weeks before the 2004 L.A. marathon, one of my roommates said after one of my longer runs, “You’re running so much, you should run the L.A. marathon.”

I mulled it over for a few seconds before saying, “Okay. If I can run three hours tomorrow, I’ll run the marathon.”

I texted her from the ocean many miles from our apartment the next day, letting her know (a) I was texting midstride and (b) the run wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought. I’d likely be running the marathon.

“You ran to the ocean?!” she texted back.

I did up running the marathon. Good thing, too, because the picture of my final moments of the run has been my inspiration for doing many things I thought I couldn’t do. I spent the last ten miles wishing I’d pass out so I could stop running; the picture only turned out looking victorious because a stranger shouted encouragement when I reached the last block.

Summited K2! Oh, wait.

L.A. finish

I crumpled in a parking lot and wept when I finished that run. 4:27. I didn’t really think I could do it, but I had.

Running had already become something to me–something more than saving time getting to and from the gym–but it became something more as I inched my way up city bus steps shortly after finishing my run. Read more…

“Almost there, 6287!”

“Only three miles left! How’s that feel?”

“Like hell,” I spat through gritted teeth.

Rightfully not taking my grumbled response personally, the lady laughed and offered up some orange slices. I offered the heartiest thanks I could muster as I nabbed these while cruising crawling up a molehill that felt like Everest.

I hadn’t planned to run that first marathon. In fact, I’d only started running because I figured I could complete an entire run in the amount of time it would take me just to travel between gym and home. Pacing wasn’t an important part of the running I’d been doing before I started the 2004 L.A. Marathon, which I did for no greater reason than that my roommate said a couple weeks beforehand, “You’re running so much, you should run the marathon!”

I started the marathon the way I started most my runs: with as much speed as I could muster. I raced through the first ten miles at a 6- and 7-minute per mile clip. I was on top of the world!

Around mile 17, I learned how running a marathon is not like going for a two-hour run around your neighborhood. You’re in it for the long haul, not just for as long as you feel like running.

Around mile 24, I was barely moving. I was so lost in the effort of making it one more step (and praying I’d pass out so I could stop running), I didn’t have enough energy to believe in myself.

Weak middle? That’s cool. It’s the finishing you take with you.

Fortunately, others not only believed in me but vocally urged me onward. Someone would yell, “Almost there, 6287!” and I’d think, “You know, they’re right! I am almost there!” I’d push myself back up toward speeds almost qualifiable as running speeds, and keep them going for a full minute or two before I flagged again.

When downtown Los Angeles came into sight, my fists flew up in an unplanned demonstration of primal glee. Right after that, I thought, with a lot more swearing, “I don’t like the telescoping lens effect in horror movies and I like it less here. @#$)@#*%!”

I kept running.

By the time I rounded the last corner, a block seemed like an eternity. Keeping up a crawl was taking everything I had.

“6287,” someone shouted. “You’re looking tired!”

No sh!t, Sherlock, I thought graciously.

“You’re looking tired, but you’ve got this! Sprint it! I know you’ve got it in you!”

I couldn’t see the person who yelled this encouragement, but I believed him. I looked at the finish line looming and thought, “Hell, yeah, I can do this!”

I steeled myself and I ran. I didn’t crawl, I didn’t doubt, I didn’t do anything but run.

I crossed that finish line and I wept like a little girl who’s told she’s never going to have ice cream again. Ever. But my tears had a different source: I’d done it. And I’d done it, in part, due to orange slices, high fives, and people shouting me on when I didn’t have enough room in my heart to believe in myself.

It’s been ten months since I ran my half marathon in Portland. In those months, until this morning, I’ve run only twice. The first run was twelve minutes; the second, sixteen.

This morning I told myself I’d run fifteen minutes. Instead, I ran twenty. I doubtfully ran even one-tenth the distance I covered in either marathon I’ve run, but it was a challenge nevertheless. It’s always a challenge coming back to something after a long break. Am I still good for this?

I thought of all those folks who cheered me on when I so needed it. I thought, too, of all the kind words you have shared when I needed them here, and the way you did the same in response to Darla’s raw, personal, breathtaking reflections on gratitude.

Your words mean something. In the end, it’s the runner herself who will or will not find what it takes to finish that marathon, or to push the “Publish” button no matter her doubts. But I believe more and more each day races are finished with the support of the people whose faith in us helped us overcome our own doubts before and during, and whose Gatorade and movie marathons afterward remind us that we’ll make it through the challenges to come, too.

Thank you for that, dear readers.

Thank you, “Sherlock.”

Let's BEE Friends

Running for Mom

“If Mom could get on her bike through the pain and the tears, just to be able to go, I can do this.”

Soaked before it even started

Soaked before it even started

On October 10, 2010, my younger sisters, my brothers-in-law and I ran 13.1 miles in the rain. This we did in memory of our mom, who’d lost her excruciating battle with neuroendocrine cancer six months earlier. Together–thanks to the loving support of our friends–we raised $5,015 in Mom’s memory for the American Cancer Society.

As we neared the end, my sister Rachael got quieter. Each step was harder than the last, but remembering Mom’s ferocious spirit in her final days gave Rachael the strength to persevere.

Tomorrow Rachael and Nick will run once more for Team Christine. It’ll undoubtedly be a struggle, but most things worth accomplishing are.

After my first marathon, I wrote:
Around mile 24, I wanted to die so that I wouldn’t have to run anymore.

When I wrote those words, I had no idea my mom would die of cancer six years later, at the age of 52. I similarly had no idea my younger sister and brother-in-law would run a marathon in her memory a year after that. I had no idea how proud I’d be that, instead of running a marathon wishing they’d die so they could stop running, they’d run so people could stop dying.

People often say to me, “I could never run a marathon!”

Couldn’t you, though? If there was a chance it would save your mom, or your sister, or husband,wouldn’t you? Call me a fool, or naive, but I believe you could. I believe you would.

I believe you would know the agony of being so tired you can’t keep your chin up. Of being so tired you want to strip naked just to take another pound off the load you’re carrying. And I believe that you would also know, when you crossed that finish line bawling, exactly what you are capable of surviving. You’d know that the victory is so sweet because the tribulations were so bitter.

It’s true of marathons, but no less true for life.

Tomorrow, Rache and Nick will run 26.1 miles. I’ll be 1,000 miles away as they cross that finish line, but my mind and heart will be turned toward their struggle, their triumph and the hope that someday fewer people will have cause to run in memory of a loved one stolen too soon by cancer.

Always and forever

Always and forever

Note:
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Reposted 6/20/15

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