i am the smart, witty girl who rolls her eyes at conformity, people who live in fear and those who trust the government. despite my tough exterior i have a soft and chewy center.ask. c'mon, you know you wanna
Years ago, when I went through a breakup (usually awful), my friend, Debbie, would wryly describe it as “changing administrations.”
Lately, I have been feeling tremors inside, begging to rock my world. Life is short and one can’t sit around waiting for stuff to change unless you do.
The first one came in early May. I have been part of a running group, but because I have a second job teaching at a local gym, I never had time to train with them. I would dutifully show up for races and do a half-assed job because I was exhausted from never having a day off.
I gave up two classes in May and have been running with a wonderful group on Wednesday evenings. At first, we were running stairs and doing suicide drills at a local football stadium. By late summer, it evolved into trail running at one of two local trails.
I am smitten. With running and with these people. After nearly eight years of living here, I have finally found a group of people who feel like home. They are in their 30s and 40s, many of them educators or other professionals and we all share a love of running.
During the summer, the relationship with my boyfriend began to deteriorate. I won’t go into details, but I was feeling extremely dissatisfied. I also could see that he needed to grow/change/evolve. But, I didn’t act.
Fast-forward to September. I don’t know if it is the end of summer (my favorite season) or what, but the tremors were turning into an emotional earthquake of sorts.
I had completed a couple of 10K trail runs upstate and yearned for more. I loved the chill vibe of the atmosphere, and loved waiting for my friends to return from crazy 18 or 37-mile ultras in the same contest. These were held at night and I had thought that my days of staying up all night were over years ago. But staying up all night to cheer on my friends was exciting and more fun than any nightclub experience.
Determined to get better, I gave up my two Sunday classes at the gym in order to rest or train.
It is a financial sacrifice, but one worthwhile.
Then, last week, I ended an almost five-year relationship. It wasn’t going anywhere. Like my races, it had run its course.
I was sad, but OK. I still am. I think it is for the best. I deserve better and he needs to figure out what’s next.
That’s part of being a grownup.
So, for now, I am feeling zen about everything and looking forward to the next chapters.
I really am that kid whom everyone picked last for sports teams in elementary school. If it was down to me and the fat kid with glasses, they’d choose the latter.
It was no small wonder: I was sort of awkward and bookish and really hated running. I went to a Catholic school out in the sticks of Ohio, and the nuns made us run laps around the graveyard. The irony was not lost on me as I would make sarcastic remarks the entire time as I trudged around the gravel, circular path.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t athletically inclined. I could ride my purple banana seat Huffy for hours and turn cartwheels and do backbends all day long.
But when it came to running, I just couldn’t do it.
Adolescence turned into adulthood and sometime in the late 90s, I was dating a Cuban national named Mario who enjoyed running and biking. The biking part wasn’t bad, but I was having flashbacks of the St. Louis Church graveyard whenever we’d run along Dania Beach.
At first, I walked more than I ran, but propelled by the desire to please someone I was with, I began running more than walking. Before long, I actually started liking it.
Mario and I parted ways (OK, he broke up with me via answering machine. But that’s another story…) and I started grad school at the University of Florida.
There, I discovered the…uh…joy of running the stairs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
This created a new challenge, fraught with gasping for air and aching quads, but it helped clear a mind fogged by being a graduate teaching assistant and a grad student.
In 2004, I moved to Way South Texas for a job as a journalism professor at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Running was something I did off and on until 2009. The uni was sponsoring a 5K and I figured, “why not?” I wasn’t very practiced in the real art of running, but I followed this older dude who looked to be in his 70s. He still managed to finish ahead of me.
Undaunted, I continued to try local 5Ks and would finish with varying degrees of success.
In the last couple of years, I have gotten more accustomed to running races and discovered that being…older…had its advantages. There aren’t as many of us out there. I guess my peers are consumed with kids and marriage. Since I am unencumbered, running is my solace.
It has gotten to the point that I don’t even have to be the fastest kid on the block. By the sheer law of averages, I end up placing in my age group. The achievement seems somewhat dubious, but no one else has to know.
This past year, things have changed a lot: I ran my first half marathon and managed to limp into (IT band issues) first place. I was astonished that someone else was even slower than me.
This summer, I gave up a couple of classes I taught at a local gym, so I could run with a group on Wednesday nights.
This has been a game changer in a lot of ways. It is great to run with others because of the camaraderie and because it has helped me improve. I look forward to being with these folks more than pretty much anyone else.
The changes are still coming. I took up trail running a couple of months ago. I have found my love. It is so comforting to be out on a trail with a group of people who love doing it for the same reasons.
I have even done a couple of “big boy” trail races upstate with these folks. (Don’t get excited: I am running 10Ks and they’re doing 30K and 60K. They are amazing.) It is incredibly challenging — especially because we don’t have the kind of terrain here that is found up there.
But, I think I’m not a fluke, either. My goal both times has been to place in the master’s category. Again, I’m not super-fast, but I am tenacious. Both times, I’ve won second place in my category. And there are others behind me.
It makes me smile to be in this running group, which is filled with a lot of natural-born runners and athletes — and people like me. What makes me happiest is the support and encouragement.
It’s a far cry from those days of being picked last.