It struck me the other day - I’ve been running for just over four decades.
But I never considered myself a runner until about a year ago.
As the new kid in school in a small village in a new country, I had a lot of changes to deal with – at a time social media didn’t exist. A handwritten letter took a good two weeks to reach my old friends, so it didn’t take long to focus my energies on my new community.
That’s when I discovered cross country running. I’m not particularly competitive when it comes to sports, so this was a chance to create and foster new friendships; to belong. We were all girls – not by design – about to become teenagers and we honestly didn’t care about winning. We just enjoyed being together and being outside. In races, we would stop to help a teammate who stumbled over a tree root and it cost us valuable minutes, but that meant nothing to us or to our coach. We were a close, supportive group on the trails and throughout life.
Then we moved again, and several more times after that. Besides my family, my one constant was running. It became a solitary activity by choice as motherhood and work became increasingly hectic. Music and our dog were my sole company as I ran off stress or let my wondering mind figure out how to deal with the latest crisis.
While they’re in my heart every moment of every day, the children have moved on to their own lives, we have a grandson and retirement is on the horizon.
A couple of years ago, after yet another and hopefully last move, a friend told me about a local running group. I dismissed the idea at first because I run by myself and for me. But after a few months, I decided to give it a try.
And just like when I was 12, I felt the rush of being around a group of people who enjoy companionship and running. It’s rarely about getting to the finish as quickly as possible. It’s about fresh air. It’s about feeling free after a day stuck in a windowless office. It’s about in-depth conversations with the person running beside you that you really don’t know, but soon will. It’s about community.
I discovered races just last year. Who knew you got a medal for just finishing! It became my summer’s addiction as I dragged my poor husband across the province and beyond, picking races based on the medals they offer because yes, I’m that shallow. Though I never called them races. That word is too intimidating. I called them runs.
Somewhere along the line, I started recognizing people’s faces and remembering names. In late summer, I entered runs with some friends and discovered the added delight of sharing this experience with people whose joys and tragedies I had discovered over the kilometers on the trails.
I was running on a high, literally, when a diagnosis of mono knocked me off my feet early in the fall. For a while I felt so ill I didn’t care that I couldn’t run, but as I literally and figuratively got my feet back under me, I worried about how weak I felt and wondered if I’d ever ‘get it back.’
I did, of course, and was feeling awesome about life again when an accident had me bedridden for two weeks with months of physiotherapy ahead. Team Myles training wasn’t far off and I thought I was out of the race – in every way possible.
But of course, when it comes to Team Myles, there’s no such thing as being out of the running. With understanding and encouragement from Team Myles and patience on my part I’m far further ahead than I ever expected to be and I’m going to giv‘er June 6.
Perhaps I am a runner after all.