Something happens when people run/walk alongside each other for miles. Something that allows them to open up and say things to each other that they would never say while sitting across from one another in a coffee shop or at a kitchen table, or even on bar stools.
It must be because of the lack of eye contact - at least that is my theory. It surely also has to do with moving forward towards a common goal together, sweating together, being uncomfortable together. We let our guards down because we are at our most natural sans makeup, with hair stuffed in a pony tail or hat, smelling less than our best. We are equals, as nothing matters but that we love to run. Jobs, education, and age are inconsequential when in running clothes. We see "runners" and nothing else. We see ourselves as kindred spirits.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains: if you want to get to know someone, go out for a long run together. As feet move forward, souls are revealed. I know more about my running partners than I do about some of my family members - more about the REAL version of them, about what makes them tick and the trials they have been through. Through the miles, other runners and I have shared stories of triumphs, broken hearts, parenting worries and guilt, and bodily functions. Heck, bodily functions are THE favorite topic of conversation on long runs. You may start your run as strangers, but you will finish feeling like the best of friends.
As my children get older, I am holding onto this secret weapon. When they reach their teen years and no longer want to tell me every little detail of their lives, I will take them out to run. I know that as the miles pass, as we move towards an invisible finish line without looking at each other and without the distractions of daily life, they will share themselves with me. And I will do the same.
Run There!, Incorporated has been a dream, a goal, a vision, for a very long time. Starting a nonprofit is not something I have ever done before and each tiny step has been a learning experience. As we prepare for take-off, I felt it would be helpful to share a bit about myself. As the website explains, I am a social worker by education, have been a distance runner for 27 years, and have coached individuals from elementary school-age children through adults. However, my love of running and my faith in it is what makes me so determined to get Run There! off the ground.
It seems I already wrote my first blog post, 12 years ago - I found this in a box the other day, as my family and I were unpacking in our new home. This is how I still feel about running:
"Love. That seemingly simple word brings to mind many things: pleasure, risk, companionship, beginnings, and changes. Most "true" loves eventually incorporate all of these things. I found my first true love when I was 15 years old, surely younger than most. And today, that love continues to grow stronger every day.
My love carried me through a war waged against my fellow citizens on a beautiful September morning, a broken engagement, two moves, the beginning and ending of another relationship, a new job, and countless other terrible and wonderful moments in my life. My love was there for me through it all. And I began to take my love for granted.
In 2003, without warning, my true love threatened to desert me. I sought the advice of professionals, desperately trying to keep the union strong. They all told me the same thing: take a break from one another. Obviously, they did not understand the strength of our love. Obviously, they had never felt the level of devotion that I did.
Finally, one professional understood and promised that, with hard work and determination, this relationship could be salvaged. The damage was not irreparable. I was ecstatic!
By the date of my 30th birthday - that milestone dreaded by many - my love and I had been reunited. It was like starting over, and discovering the magic of my true love all over again. Only this time our meetings were even sweeter, for sometimes we only learn to appreciate the gifts in our lives when we have caught a glimpse of ourselves without them.
Running sustains me. It helps me through difficult times. It allows me to see places and people I otherwise would not be blessed to see. It builds up my self-esteem and makes me believe I can accomplish anything. It has brought me through pain and back to joy. It has found me feeling broken, and has helped me put myself back together. It helps me to believe the best, and to acknowledge the worst, in myself without fear of rejection.
Running makes it possible for me to give the best parts of myself. Love doesn't get much truer than that."
In the years since I wrote those words, running has continued to be my buoy. Through all the days of these past 12 years, running has been the thing around which I try to plan my days. Now, my children have caught the running fever and love to join me. That is a gift to me, and I know it is also a gift to them - for someday they will surely have their own stories of how running sustained them and enriched every one of their days.