I was not always a runner. Instead I swam. Swimming came easy to me and I loved it. I still do. One day when I was about 16 or so, a very cute guy asked me if I wanted to go running with him. Sure, I said. I mean how hard could it be? Um, yeah… I thought I was going to die. I was sure of it and I hated every second of that run. I vowed to never run again. The cute guy? He stayed a friend.
About six years ago, I was talked into doing Bay to Breakers. I started training and I became hooked. I was consumed by running. On the drive home from work I would plan my route for that evening, I looked forward to every run, every sore muscle… I LOVED it! And I ran Bay to Breakers and then trained for the next race and the next and so on. I ran through good health and bad because running made me feel good. I once explained to someone my love of running. Running is where I feel God’s presence. It is a time for me to enjoy all the beauty all around me. When I’m having a rough day, running is what gets me through – it’s my therapy. It’s when I talk to God and work through things. It’s where I find my peace and my strength. It’s when I feel healthy and normal. And strong.
About a year ago, I started running with a local running group, eventually taking on the role of mentor to that same group. I’ve enjoyed that very much. To see something spark in them, to watch their confidence build and then accomplish whatever goal they set. To be a part of that has been a gift. One day, someone made a comment along the lines of they are not real runners because they are doing a walk/run training program. That the miles don’t count. And I began to question myself. I felt bad about my running and allowed myself to lose some of the joy it brings me. And then I got angry. Every one of these people has a story. Some had never run before, some were recovering from injury or haven’t run in a long time, and some were quite literally going from couch to 5K. They were all working so hard. I was working hard. And yet I allowed a dumb comment to get under my skin. I allowed myself to feel self-conscious where once I didn’t. I felt weird saying I was a runner and would qualify it with “but I’m slow.” Shame on them but, mostly shame on ME. Who cares what people think. (And right now I can hear my dad saying he’s been telling me that forever.) If you get up and jog, jog/walk, sprint, whatever… you are a runner! It doesn’t matter how slow you are. A mile is a mile. Period! Don’t let others tell you anything different. Don’t allow anyone to rob you of your joy. When I was told I had RA, I was told to stop running. And I was devastated. And then I found this wonderful group of runners who have RA and still run. They STILL RUN! They inspire me. We inspire each other. And I continue to run because there may come a day when I’m no longer able. But today is not that day and, God willing, neither is tomorrow.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have a story and most of the time that story is hidden because we are going about our business just trying to make it through another day. Trying to hold onto some semblance of normalcy, holding tightly to what we still are for fear it won’t last. For me that means that sometimes I run a 12 minute mile and other times a 14. Some days I have to walk some and others I don’t need to walk at all. And who cares? I mean, who should care but me? Why must we judge others? Instead of tearing people down, why not lift them up. Cheer for them. Support them. Because you have no idea what it may have taken to run that mile. That same mile you just ran. Because, after all, a mile is a mile.