I am a runner. And that fact alone is sometimes startling to me. Because you see – I am a fifty something woman, about to run the Tufts 10K in Boston for the second time in my life – and I can’t get over the fact that that is really me — running in a race.
My husband and I were New York transplants who easily fell in love with New England’s charm and history. We settled in Kenmore Square in 1979 in apartments that were sandwiched between Fenway Park and the Victory Gardens.
I really don’t remember when I got the itch to start running. I can’t remember any article I read that inspired me. I can’t remember thinking – “This is a sport I would enjoy. ” I just remember saying to my husband, who ran track in high school that I wanted to learn to run.
Of course I knew how to run – move my feet faster then walking. But “runningÛ_åÂVbCrLf – the pacing, the breathing, the ways to distract your body from wanting to quit – I knew none of that. So – I enroll my husband to “teachÛ_åÂVbCrLf me and at 20-something I started to run. Without an IPod, without specialized gear, without high tech running shoes. It was just a basic desire to accomplish something challenging and unknown for me.
I began to run in the winter, across from our apartment in the area known as the Victory Gardens. In the spring and summer the plot of land nestled between brownstones and concrete was filled with flowers and vegetables, but that early January all that presented itself was cold pavement, brown shrubs, and a fierce wind.
The path that circled around the garden was a mile and my husband declared half way round was a good start. So bundled up, I ventured out. It was dark and cold, and as I put one foot in front of the other, my husband’s words kept pace with the thoughts popping in my head: “take it slow – walk if you have to -but go to the end, do that half mile. You will hurt – probably be gasping for air – but just do it.Û_åÂVbCrLf
He was right about everything – from the pain, to the breathing, to the gasping. And I did exactly what he said and completed the run. And so my training began. It went like that for many weeks. Some days were easier then others. Some days I just thought – I am crazy. I hate this!! And then winter turned into spring – and it got easier. At some point I could run a mile and at the next point it was two and then three, until one day I said to myself: I AM A RUNNER.
Empowered by my new abilities – I challenged myself and registered for what at the time was called the “Bonnie BelleÛ_åÂVbCrLf in downtown Boston. A “power to the women race.Û_åÂVbCrLf I felt it was my mission to run with my sisters and prove to myself what I was made of. So I pushed and trained. I was determined to do 6.2 in a respectable 8 minute mile.
I had moved up to the big leagues – not just running now, but running for time: my personal best. When race day came it was cold and drizzly – but the crowd was inspiring. I was with friends and we were out to celebrate our strengths and stamina. The race began and the energy and excitement gave me momentum – but I lost my pace – trying to move too fast, too soon. I started to get a stitch – and never lost it.
I ended the race with a greater then 8 minute mile and I thought to myself – what a defeat. I remember that experience — almost 28 years later – as if my only victory was in accomplishing that 8 minute mile. Not the hours and days of training, not the perseverance to stick to something, not the triumph of having taken on a sport that for all intents and purposes, I hated a lot of the time. Except today, I look back and see myself for who I really was and am, and have always been: A strong, powerful, woman, who once committed will follow through no matter what. And weather she succeeds or fails, she’ll start all over again.
I started running again in 2007, after a 26-year hiatus. I am older. I am wiser. I am stronger. But my accomplishment comes this time in a very different way. Matter of fact, there is no accomplishment waiting for me at the end of that race. I will finish the race – running, walking, gasping or not gasping, stitch or no stitch, 15 minute mile or 20. It doesn’t really matter. What matters this time is I am starting the race, already winning.
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