Do you? Would you?

Being a woman who began running and triathlon a LONG time ago (1971 and 1982 respectively), the “talking about” ones accomplishments on social media is interesting to me.  When I started running, I just did. I didn’t talk about it. There were no means to write about it, tweet about it, FB about it and post “selfies” and finish photos.  Hell, up until the mid 80s there WERE NO SUCH THING as finish photos!  Running as a conversational topic was almost taboo, as few women, at least in my small midwestern town, were. I felt too “different”.  It was something guys did, right?  I was almost embarrassed to admit my love for it, and then quickly came to the realization at a young age that I didn’t have to explain it. Especially to those who didn’t run. Why bother?

I rode my bike to school and work and took the teasing- “Why do you wear those shorts?” “Isn’t your car working?” “Isn’t that helmet hot?”  I even ran to and from work a few times, keeping extra clothing in my classroom to change into, along with deodorant and a towel so I could at least wipe off under my armpits before teaching all day.

I took flack for being at conventions on weekends and choosing to swim in the hotel pool during lunch break (really, you SAT all morning in meetings, and you are going to SIT during lunch and then AGAIN for 3 hours after lunch?  No thanks!)  I came back to my meetings with wet hair, but awake and refreshed.

I was stared at while pushing a contraption made from PVC pipe, three tricycle wheels and an old car seat, while I ran over to the mall, walked the mall halls and then ran back home with my daughter and some new material to sew clothes for her.

I was yelled at by guys in triathlons and marathons (“damn women anyway”) as I passed them or stayed with them in races (this is true!) in the 80s.  Are there guys “out there” still like this? Probably, but hopefully they are fewer and far between.

I still don’t feel the need to share everything about my training and racing. I am competing in my 122nd tri tomorrow.  It’s gonna be tough as I have trained minimally because of a heavy work schedule. But I get to swim in a cold lake and am looking forward to that. I will probably put  a couple of photos on FB but that will be about it.  I won’t write a race report. There would be nothing to say really.  After all it’s “just” a swim, a bike and a run. Something I have done every day for the past 40+ years. I love training. I love racing. I love writing about my experiences. But I also know where I stand in the scheme of things.  I am NOT awesome because I compete in triathlons.  It does NOT make me a better spouse, mom, co-worker, friend.  I am NOT fast for my age group. I will probably never qualify for Kona unless I really retire and invest a lot of time and $ into getting there, and choosing my races very carefully.  Is it that important?  It’s always at the back of my mind, but really I can train for and “do” an Ironman distance any day I want.  I would just have to plan it and choose my day and course.  I used to ride 120 miles with a good friend “just because”. We were the only ones who knew about it and never told anyone else. Why would we?  I am thinking about doing an IM by myself without fanfare. Without buildup. Without a coach. Without a play by play of my training and of course there will be no race report.  Only I would know.  Would you? Or do you need that audience?

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The Run

Have you ever watched kids RUN out of the classroom when they get a break from having to sit still? Have you just ever watched them chase each other, going every which way, for the pure JOY of it? Their mechanics are flawless, they don’t know that it’s 100 degrees in the shade, and you have to remind them to get a drink at the fountain. They will just RUN. Because they can. Because they need to. Because most people need to. But don’t.

I was one of those kids. I raced on the playground-anyone and no one. My teachers said I would be a better student if I “just slowed down”, but I could not. I begged to run ahead if we hiked. I asked to walk (run) down to the creek after dinner a half mile from the house so that I could catch crawdads. I cried when it was time to come home from trudging up steep hills where we tobogganed.  I ran alongside the high school neighbor boys,as they sprinted back and forth on the front green lawns,  being discussed by the grown ups, and being so aware of that at age 9 I announced  that I too would run track when I got to high school. My dad put his hand on my shoulder and told me, “No, sorry, girls don’t run track”. At least not in my small midwest town. Bet me.

It began for me, 43 years ago on a cinder track during a chilly,wet spring in the midwest. Just me and a few of my gal friends from high school. Just us and the boys track team. Us in gray sweats and white Keds with an announcement that we “wanted to work out with the guys” as there was no girl’s track team. I think our goal was four times around.  Big workout, hmm? It was enough to give me shin-splints and have to walk up the stairs backwards at school the next day.  But I kept running.

I ran for at least five years until I  thought I was “good enough” to race a 10k. I entered an “all women” race in 1977 and ended up in the top 100 under 45 min. And I loved every minute of it. I brought my 10k time down to 41:00 which is really not fast in the scheme of women’s running, but I am more of an endurance “can go all day” kind of person, so that became my focus.  I tackled my first marathon in 1978  (sub 4:00), and completed a dozen marathons in the next 4-5 years that took their toll on my knees, so I started lifting weights and riding my bike. From here I did a few ultras, ran a Grand Canyon double (12:32), Pikes peak marathon (6:06) and some local mountain races where I placed first woman in quite a few and held some records for a few years. It was a small contention of runners, so no one knew about it then nor knows about it know, unless you are reading this…and it really doesn’t matter.
I never felt the need to tell anyone about it, write about it, become a “coach” to anyone except my elementary school kids, direct a race for our school district and run for my health and fitness and stress release.

I still run. It’s much slower now. I can “crank out” a ten min. mile pace for a 5k but it’s work. It’s a way for me to wake up, gather my thoughts, come up with ideas for “my” kids at school, and to give me energy for the day. It also keeps my weight at a constant (I don’t have a scale but when I am asked to weigh myself, I weigh the same I did in high school). I don’t follow diets, but eat to re-fuel and build muscle and keep my from getting those ugly germies that preschoolers carry around with them. It’s  as natural to me as brushing my teeth, which is why I will probably only write one post about running. I mean, what can you say about it really?

It’s fun. It clears my head. It’s “me” time. It keeps me younger than my 61 years. It’s not pretty usually, or glamourous.  It doesn’t give me “aha” moments or help me solve my or the world’s problems. I don’t need running partners. I don’t need an audience. I don’t need daily mantras or sayings or motivational quotes to get me out the door at 4:30 a.m. so that I can enjoy billions of stars, an owl hoot,  a coyote’s song,  the musky smell of javelina or the pungent creosote bush after a rain. Those are reasons enough alone, don’t you think? For me, yes.

Run. on.