I am a runner. It's as much a part of me as my blue eyes and the freckles that still line my nose. Even during the years that I didn't run due to injury, family stress, and plain lack of motivation, I was still a runner. And, even if the day comes when I can no longer move faster than a shuffle, I will still be a runner. Once you run, it becomes a part of you, helping to define you, mostly to yourself, but sometimes to others. I'm not fast, certainly not talented, and not very athletic; yet, still, I'm a runner.
Over the years, most of my family, and not a few of my friends, have alternately thought me crazy, obsessed, or a health freak. They thought I had been drinking the Kool-aid, and, if not stupid, then somehow not quite right. And, truth be told, they have probably all been right, at least to some degree. But, in the last year, there's been a change, a shift of attitude, a dawning of understanding. Because, you see, some of the doubters have become runners. I've watched with delight and amazement as some of my family have taken up the torch and started their running journeys. My daughter, Kaitlyn, who was very athletic in high school, but never a runner, ran her first race the other day (a 6k) and actually won her age group. Yes, proud mama here. My sister, whose health habits and history are a blog post all on their own, has begun to run/walk and is feeling the pull. One of my closest friends began a couch to 5k program in February, after never running a step and vowing that she never would, and is running her first 5k in the morning. Amazing.
My excitement for them is boundless. I remember my first real race - a 5k in Fort Gaines, Alabama. It was so long ago that I can't even remember the year or the name of the race. What I do remember was the feeling. The excitement and nervousness at the start, the Confederate drum corp that kept time to my pounding footfalls and heartbeat, the rush of adrenaline when I knew the finish line was near. Gary and I ran that race together (although he outdistanced me easily), then went on to run the Crescent City Classic the next year in New Orleans. I was a runner. Many years and hundreds of miles later, I still feel that nervous excitement at the start of a race. The wondering if I had trained enough, if I would be able to achieve the goal I set for myself; the elation when I do, the crushing disappointment when I don't. I actually envy my new running friends a little - they have so much to look forward to, new PR's, exciting new goals to set. The great thing about running, though, is that every run is a new one. Every day is a new day and brings its own set of challenges. Some runs are diamonds, some runs are stones, but you learn and grow from every single one.
As new runners, I want them to treasure every moment. To remember how it felt when they could barely walk a mile, then the satisfaction they felt when they were finally able to run it. I want them to remember the sense of accomplishment they feel at their first finish line and carry that into their lives. Running is such a metaphor for life that you can't help applying the lessons you learn in training and racing to your personal and professional life.
Most of all, I wish them joy. Joyous runs that take them around new cities and down new trails, literally and figuratively. Runs that lead them to places in their lives they never thought they would go. I'm so excited to be passing the bar, watching you run with it, then taking it back for my own race. Happy trails, my friends!