The Bravest Runner

Posted on December 20, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

barefootrunner

By the time the 5K was over, word had spread about the young girl in stocking feet.  Sobbing, she crossed the finish line without her shoes, her mother trailing not far behind.  Her coaches saw her coming from across the line, where they stood holding finisher’s medals, waiting to crown their girls.

What happened? Her coaches surrounded her, concerned that she was injured.

It took awhile before she could stifle the tears enough to tell them.  Blisters. Painful blisters bubbled up on her feet about a mile from the finish line.  She could hardly go on in such pain, and her mother told her she could stop if she wanted to.

Not her.  She was too close and had worked too hard, had been looking forward to this race for weeks and couldn’t possibly stop now, so close.

She took off her shoes instead and ran a mile in her socks, crying all the way.

A coach hugged her tight. If you can do this, she said shaking her head, you can take anything life throws at you.

My hero, the bravest runner at last Saturday’s Girls on the Run 5K. I hope I grow up to be just like her.

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Confessions of a Lone Runner

Posted on December 14, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

girl on grass running

I have always said that I prefer to run alone, before dawn.  Running alone gives me clarity, helps me focus on my life, my day, whatever issue ails me. It opens my eyes to all I am grateful for, including the stars and sunrise and empty streets.

But I’m sure I run alone out of habit more than preference.  I have always been a loner.  We are creatures of habit, after all, and a loner gets used to being alone.

Strange, then, that I would end up here, director of an organization that empowers girls through running, that seeks to show girls through experience that they are the arbiters of their own lives and can do anything.  Yet they need not do it alone.  They are, rather, an essential part of a team—an entire community—and without their contribution the world is much less.

Girls on the Run, this fantastic organization I am blessed to be a part of, has the power to transform lives, not only girls’ lives, but the lives of the remarkable (mostly) women who support it.  The organization cannot exist without the network of coaches and other volunteers who weave it together into a strong, beautiful, and resilient web that refuses to let girls fall.

Strange, then, that my task—the loner—at this moment in life is to connect the lives of these women and girls, to support them in their effort to build relationships and teams, to strengthen character, to grow.

Tomorrow is our season’s-end 5K.  Over 100 girls will run this race with running buddies at their sides, families and friends cheering them on.  When they cross the finish line, they will have gained the knowledge that they can do what they put their minds to.  They will establish confidence through accomplishment.  It is our hope that this confidence carries over into other areas of their lives and teaches them what it feels like to finish what they started—and that they are not alone in doing so.

This morning I ran alone, before dawn, anticipating tomorrow’s event, mentally juggling all the balls still in the air that won’t land until the race is over and the grounds cleaned up.  I often think on these runs that we are placed in life not only where we can do the most good for others, but where others can do the most good for us too.  A loner gets used to being alone and strives for independence, not asking for help. Never expecting it.  Not understanding that interdependence is a much worthier goal.

Strange that on this morning’s run I didn’t feel alone.

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