Thursday, July 26, 2012

See Mommy Run (an old favorite)

**Now that this blog is my new home, I'm re-publishing some of my favorite posts over here.**

originally published on TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2010 (the week before my third marathon)
I was wrapped in plastic the first time I completed a planned run. Angela's Aunt Connie was trying a new weight-loss program, and it involved covering her mid-section with Saran Wrap and jogging some distance. Angela and I decided it sounded like a good idea. We wrapped our scrawny selves up, slid on some jogging pants despite Memphis' summer heat, and hit the sidewalk. I don't remember if Aunt Connie ran with us, and I don't remember if we actually finished the run, but I remember doing it again by myself. The Saran Wrap didn't stick, but the running did.

Coach Jacobs was the first to plant the distance-running seed. Coach J was a wiry tomboy with frosted hair and a gruff voice. Instead of walking, she strutted. When I joined the track team in Junior High, she added me to the middle distance group. Blissfully unaware that the 800 was the hardest distance to run, I soon discovered my athletic gift -- endurance. She was the first to call me "Martini": "MARTINI!! PICK YOUR KNEES UP!!" We didn't have a track, but we pounded the grass flat around a pitiful football field. While we sprinted through mud and dodged holes, Coach J would scream, "If you're not puking, you're not running hard enough!"

I ran Cross Country all four years of high school. On those 3-mile trekks around Primacy Parkway in East Memphis, I learned it was possible to laugh and run at the same time.

My Walkman accompanied me on runs in college. Jackson Browne's "Stay" was a favorite refrain as I trotted by students on their way to class. The treadmill in the Curris Center basement gym also became an alternate spot to squeeze in a run.

Once I graduated and started my news career, running took on a different meaning. It wasn't about staying in shape or keeping the "freshman 15" at bay. It was about relieving stress. When the same grisly pictures kept appearing in my head, or the sound of my screaming news director kept echoing, I ran. The route around my apartment meandered through a peaceful residential neighborhood where people waved and flowers bloomed. When I moved to Evansville, the stress followed me. My schedule was brutal -- one morning shift, two night shifts, and two day shifts -- week after week. I ran whenever I could, sharing the two-lane road to the river with tractor trailers. The only shade came in late summer when the corn was ready for harvest.

When Ryan and I got married and I got a normal job away from death and destruction, my first half-marathon became a reality. Running after work became part of my routine. In East Tennessee, we ran together on the streets of downtown Newport in the shadow of the Smokies. I ran in the rain around our neighborhood on Ross Dr., and the gym at ETSU became my refuge while finishing up graduate work.

Once we moved back here, Ryan became my running partner. Bryan joined us, and for the first time as an adult I discovered the joy of sharing running. Two marathons and five more half-marathons followed, and training morphed as our obligations and time commitments expanded and changed.

My running life (and life in general) has shifted most dramatically in the last three years. First pregnancy, then an arduous labor with Lee -- both increased my endurance and pain tolerance. I'm sure quitting smoking after more than 10 years positively affected my running, too. Pregnancy with Daniel and a much easier birth increased my confidence in my body's strength, and therefore increased my confidence in running. I learned that running is crucial to my sanity: if it means getting up at 4:30 a.m. after two hours of sleep to do it, that's what I'll do.

Everywhere I've lived, every job I've had, every major stage in life since age 12 has included running. It's easy to close my eyes and return to hundreds of places -- rain-soaked Newport streets; a derelict neighborhood in Springfield; the sidewalk along Kirby Rd. in Memphis; sandy bike paths in Pensacola, Palm Harbor, and Grand Cayman.

Running is not a hobby for me; it's part of my soul and who I am. When the day comes that my body is no longer able to carry me across the asphalt for long miles, and the running shoes are relegated to the back of the closet, I will mourn.

Until then, I will get up before dawn to cruise up and down hills outside our door. I will run faster, harder, and longer to continue to push my physical limits. I will show our boys that passion and dedication can equal success in places other than work.

No matter my pace, this weekend I will fly.

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