I’ve called myself a ‘runner’ for 40 years – And in many ways running, along with the important people and core values I hold near and dear, serves to define this self I call “me”. It’s just part of who I am.
I ran my first race when I was 8 years old. This was back in the days of gray sweats and Keds tennis sneakers. This was several years before Title IX passed. My parents took me and my 13 year-old sister to the track at a private boys Catholic high school not too far from our house in suburban New Jersey. I cannot recall what sort of event this was. All I knew was that I was there to run. There were lots of other kids there milling about. I remember noticing that my sister and I were the only girls actually running. Other girls were there, but I never actually saw any others run. The girls sat on the bleachers with their parents watching their brothers race around the oval. We lined up straight across the track, one girl, and five boys. I had never actually run around a track before, but I had run around my block many, many times, and I imagined that it would be much like that. The starters gun fired, pop, and feet, knees and elbows flew. I remember moving my legs and feet as fast as I could possibly make them go. As we rounded the final turn I experienced for the first time the feeling you have when you push your legs to a point where you can no longer feel, nor control, them. When you make such an effort that your legs just sort of leave you – and you are your legs – they are no longer just part of you. I came in last, though it was close. That was it. I became a runner that day.
As I grew up, through high school and college, running was a constant in my life. Through all the ups and downs of adolescence and early adulthood, running stuck with me. It was my anchor and my place to go when I needed grounding.
I began road racing in my early 20s, mostly 10ks and half marathons, and became pretty competitive in my relatively small pond of new England. But my competitive success and my competitive nature got the best of my, and by the ripe-old age of 26, I was completely burned out. I pretty much quit road racing for the next 20 years, though I continued to log many miles for my mind and soul.
Then at 44, while dealing with a tenacious injury probably bought on by 50+ mile weeks pushing a baby jogger, I was told that my running days were over, which precipitated an existential crisis of sorts. I fought, back and forth and forth and back, with myself – believe the doctors…No, don’t believe the doctors, and on and on. Ultimately I didn’t believe, and searched for a solution (it took 10 months) that brought me back to running. But that experience shook me. Over the years I always told myself that “someday” I would like to run Boston, and NYC, and Western States!! And then I was told “someday” would never come. And so I started racing again. At the sprightly age of 46 I ran my second marathon, and I haven’t stopped since then. If there comes a day when I truly will not be able to run again, I want to have no regrets. Boston Marathon number 2 is 3 weeks off, and I’ve just registered for my first 50k. Now 49, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
Besides being a runner, I’m a running coach, a philosophy teacher, a rock climber, a mother (and an old mother – I had my daughter when I was 43), and a wife. As a writer I love to explore the intersection between running, and ethics and psychology.
Sal The Snail
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