What Running Could Teach a Girl

Posted on August 24, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I want to show girls how running teaches them things that can change their lives.

I hear that sentiment a lot as I talk with women who want to become coaches or other volunteers for Girls on the Run.  I smile every time because I understand just what they mean.  Now.

There was a time, however, when hearing such a thing struck me as completely ridiculous.  How could running teach a person about life?  All it seemed to teach people was how to sweat a lot and injure muscles and ligaments I had never heard of.  How does limping through life with wet socks and undergarments teach anyone anything useful about living? Sheer craziness, I thought.

Until I ran.  Now, I am a runner.

Did you notice the way I phrased that?  I am a runner.  I did not say that I became a runner, or that I learned to run, although both statements are true.  Instead, I chose a phrase that defines a present, permanent, pervasive state of being.  You could almost call it an inhabitation.  Now, it is quite natural for me to say this:  I am a runner.  For a long time, it was not.

I often think about why that is the case.  People frequently ask me if I am a runner, and it always startles me.  For some reason, I don’t expect it to show.  I know that many runners have identifiable physiques, as do jockeys and sumo wrestlers, but I don’t think it’s the association with a particular body type that surprises me.

Maybe it’s because for me running is not about the body anymore.  It’s about the soul.  And to ask if I’m a runner means that in some strange way the most private part of me has been made public.  A clearly unsettling prospect for anyone.  Unsettling, and life changing.

Running didn’t show me that I had a soul (I’d like to believe it was already there), it made me understand that what I needed to succeed in this life—what I needed to make healthy and loving choices, to be strong and confident and at peace—was already there inside me.  Running helped me to tap into it and pull it out, unfold it and put its pieces together, like the kite you might get in your Easter basket, ultimately billowing high above the earth but tethered to you by a string.

And that’s what these volunteers want the girls to see.  That they already have at least the pieces of everything they need to live a happy, healthy life right there inside them.

If they can get the girls to take just one step, to move forward just a little, the girls will learn to trust the voice they hear inside when they run.  Eventually, the girls will run into themselves.

And maybe some of them will one day say, I am a runner.

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