Sometimes I take my running too seriously. My husband is usually the first to tip me off that I’ve gone over the edge from enjoying it to stressing out about it. When he does this, his favorite phrase for reminding me of running’s place in my life is, “it’s just a hobby.”
He is always half joking, acknowledging that it matters to me and is important to me, but truthfully reminding me that in the end it’s not a matter of life or death. If I don’t PR or *gasp* get a day’s workout in, the Earth will continue to turn.
Lately, I uncharacteristically don’t need that reminder.
When I woke up from a short afternoon nap on Monday, April 15 and realized bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, like many of you, my own running suddenly felt insignificant. It seemed like a normal reaction and one I expected to pass. Hours turned to days, days to a couple of weeks and finally I felt like running mattered to me again. I could hear the faint crackle of the fire beginning to burn again.
But then this whole missing women found in Cleveland thing happened. This might seem a strange thing to impact one’s motivation to run, so let me explain. As many of you know, the Salty headquarters are on the outskirts of Cleveland, OH. I was born here, left for several years and returned to settle down and start a family. It’s a great place to live. Most of the time here, I’ve lived in the eastern suburbs, but when I was finishing up undergrad (in my mid-20’s – I took the scenic route) and then when I went to law school, I immersed myself in Cleveland urban life. I first lived in a community just east of downtown and then in 2003, I moved to a neighborhood on the southwest side. I lived on the southern edge of a neighborhood called Tremont.
Tremont is where I started running again in the summer of 2004. I ran past the fliers showing Gina DeJesus’ and Amanda Berry’s photos. Gina’s disappearance, in particular, struck me. I lived a couple of blocks from the neighborhood that is the heart of Cleveland’s Puerto Rican community. I much preferred this side of my neighborhood then going to the more gentrified areas for things like grocery shopping or coffee runs. I often drove past the churches, the schools, the botanicas admiring them along the way. Gina’s fliers were everywhere.
After law school, I found a good job and started looking to buy a house. I looked at a charming old house even closer to the Puerto Rican neighborhood from my apartment, but decided against it. Although the area was fairly gentrified, there was still a thread of urban decay and violence. I often encountered dogs on the run, at best unsupervised and improperly cared for dogs, but often strays. There were often homeless or drunk men sleeping in the park. And I often felt something was just off and not safe. There’s something about running the streets that gives you a sense of a place. I trusted my gut and passed on that house and the neighborhood.
When I first heard the missing women were found alive, I was so relieved. It took a day or two for the reality to sink in and realize the horror they must have gone through. And then, finally, I decided to map the house to see where this happened. I was right across the freeway the whole time. I drove by it often to go to the grocery store. I frequented Charles Ramsey’s McDonalds to feed my coffee habit. I’m sure I saw Ariel Castro in passing.
The thought of being that close to someone so sick and, well, evil scares me. As a mother, the thought that we could be driving by a house where that was happening or standing next to someone who could do something like that hurts. I look at my innocent children and I hope with all the hope I have that I can protect them from that thread of evil in this world.
But I often come back to one thing: while Michelle, Amanda and Gina were imprisoned, I was out there running free. I had the privilege of being a little older, of living just a few blocks closer to the nice part of town, of growing up in the burbs. I didn’t know any of them, yet I feel a little survivor’s guilt.
And running goals feel so insignificant. So just a hobby.
I’ve been trying to remind myself that this stuff is very rare; most people really are good. Life goes on. In the face of terrorism at the Boston Marathon or three women being imprisoned just blocks from my apartment, the answer is to live fully. The answer always is to live fully and run on.
How about you? Are you feeling back to normal after Boston? Ever have something so unrelated to running impact your desire to run like this?