I’ve been thinking about running. No surprise there but compelled to say something more about what it means to me. Let me start from the beginning.
When I was a little girl, I loved gymnastics. I began taking lessons around the age of 9 and never looked back. I began with little to no talent and to be honest, didn’t gain much of that along the way. But I wholeheartedly loved the sport that I worked at it like I was actually blessed the ability to do it well.
This was me, taking as many lessons as my mom would allow, showing up for “open gym” on Saturdays to practice all day, lingering in the leotard shop salivating over splashy neon uniforms, staying extra hours to watch “The Team” practice and idolizing the girls who were allowed to compete. When the Olympics were on — or in the rare even a gymnastics meet was televised — I was hooked, staring at the TV in my own little leotard. On commercial breaks, I practiced my back walk overs and handstands. I lunged myself down into the splits and did back bends until my arms gave out.
And don’t even get me started about the 1992 Olympics. I was glued to the TV and knew all the names and details of every American on the team. Found this little montage of the teams (below) and its hilarious because I remember the faces of every single girl in this video since I was taped and rewatched everything — and this was 19 years ago!
I lived for gymnastics camp in the summers. My idea of heaven was floor routines, trampoline time, practicing fly aways from the bar over the foam pit. I wanted to get it perfect, I wanted it to be grand. My hard work paid off. A little.
Slowly, I began to develop skills. I mastered the standing backhandspring, and did backwalkovers on the high beam. I even worked up to back tucks and fly aways to finish on the uneven bars. It didn’t matter what else was going on if I got to do gymnastics. If I landed my flips, completed a routine well, or accomplished a new skill, I was on cloud 9 and there was no amount of fatigue or discouragement that would stop be from trying.
I distinctly remember one moment when I was about 12. The gymnastics coach, Scott, who was very strict and respected hard work, stopped one day and said something to me about how I’d “come a long way” and he could see just how hard I’d been working all those years in the gym. I knew I’d never be great — but hearing that from him — I knew I’d accomplished something great in myself.
|I couldn’t find a photo of the 1992 team so the 1996 team will have to do!|
I was always looking for something else in life I loved that much. I joined the gymnastics team in middle school and a short part of high school but it soon lost its luster. In the realm of competition, it wasn’t the same for me. And gymnastics is a young sport so you can’t pick it back up later. I never found anything in life that made me want to work that hard again.
Finding It Again
Finally, I’ve found it. Though I’ve been running for years now, the bug, the satisfaction, the drive has only set in this year. My priorities have changed a bit and I’m growing up — maybe that’s it. But running saves me. It gives me something to work for, to be proud of, to feel good about. I’ve found grace and comfort in this community of runners — other people who care about fitness and “get” why I love getting up on a Saturday morning for a 10k I paid $30 to run. People who understand what it means to “run off” the anxiety or totally get it when I said I run to keep from going insane. I run to keep from being depressed and I run because it makes me feel alive. No matter what I am going through, the load will feel 10 times lighter after I run my butt off. It’s so simple…this little sport that requires nothing but your legs. Technically shoes and clothes but not essentially, right?
My point is this: I’ve found my drive. I can’t peel myself out of bed at 5am on a crummy Saturday. I can push myself to get through 20 miles, thanking God for the muscles in my legs, for the beautiful sunrise on the river, for the crispy deliciousness of dawn and the cheerful souls I run past. It’s not about burning calories — not anymore. Yes, that’s part of it but that’s not why you run 20 miles, that’s not why you train and give up your Friday nights. It’s about accomplishing something that feels greater than yourself. It is there in the clarity of the morning, in the pounding of your heart, in the heaviness of breath, that life is bursting forth more so than any other time.
That’s why I love this Melissa Ethridge song, “I Run for Life.”
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend:| I run for life
That’s what gymnastics did for me then. That’s what running does for me now. I believe there is power in excercize. That’s why I absolutely the love the concept behind “Back on My Feet.” If running gives me inspiration and makes feel alive and hopeful and able and happy — why couldn’t it do the same thing for someone that has nearly nothing? It’s a good drug! I’m such a huge proponent of helping people who are also willing to help themselves. “Back on My Feet” gives them that opportunity. Tina did a good post on them recently, if you are interested! Also, my sister is their Comms Director in Indy and writes about her team frequently.
Now, my inspiration comes from Runners World and more than anything, the blogosphere — from my fellow runners and marathoners and half marathoners and 10kers and from anyone who is working towards a fitness goal. We sweat, we complain, we pine and we dream a little dream. We get up early and go to work and cross finish lines to come in 2,000th place. But it doesn’t matter. Because we did it — and we feel amazing.