|Photo courtesy of Adam Streur photography|
When I first started running years ago people would say, “Oh you’re a runner.” And I’d immediately counter with, “No, no, no I run but I’m not a runner.” And I believed it. Even when I was running six days a week, crushing 10K’s and placing in local races I never believed myself to have the title. While running the Corporate Cup, a 10K in Omaha, my corporate female team placed second overall. We were in a field of over 11,000 runners and it was tough competition – all the legit runners in the area come out to the flat race in downtown Omaha. But ask me, and I’d say, “Nope, NOT a runner.”
But, even then, I didn’t, couldn’t call myself a runner. I’d shake my head, avert my eyes with embarrassment, and dismiss the very notion.
|Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha, NE|
One afternoon I took off from work for a training run and started down a familiar path that would lead me over the pedestrian bridge into Iowa. The skies were dark and there was a threatening rumble in the distance but I wanted to get eight miles in before I left. Around mile three and under the coverage of trees, large rain drops began to fall. One after the other, they dotted the sidewalk in large splashes until everything was covered and it was then the skies opened up.
I got to my turn around, the rain was now slicing easily through the branches and I was soaked to the core. I picked up the pace when the thunder started rolling closer my feet light and quick, the steps falling away easily behind me. It was like a dance, a chase… and I was enjoying the ride. The tone of the run changed dramatically when a crack of thunder followed immediately by lightning illuminated the sky as I took my first step onto the Bob Kerry pedestrian bridge (constructed out of metal) that was my only way home. With roughly a 1/4 mile distance to span across the churning waters I ran and I ran hard. Heart thumping hard in my chest fueled with a healthy dose of adrenaline, I watched the skies light up, the lightning zipped all around me, booming thunder rattling my ears. I’d be willing to bet it was my fastest 400m I’ve ever logged, though I didn’t think in the moment to time myself.
I turned the corner off the bridge and finished my last 600m or so back to my building still riding the adrenaline high from the storm, my limbs and fingertips crackled and tingled as I sprinted home. I flew through the automatic glass doors and finally stopped moving a loud breath escaping my lips. The lobby was dark, empty, and cold and in the silence, I raised my hands behind my head and took some deep breaths to recover. I realized as goosebumps came out on my skin that I was drenched, and suddenly freezing. Chest heaving and shivering I checked my watch. It wasn’t my fastest run, it wasn’t my hardest, or farthest, but something in me just clicked. Standing alone in that lobby soaked to the bone, shivering against the cold air blasting through the vents it hit me, I was a runner.
I don’t know why it was that moment and not so many others. It wasn’t a monumental place or time, I didn’t announce to anyone or even speak it aloud. It was just an acknowledgement I gave myself. I was so afraid of calling myself a runner, I missed the fact that I already was. And it didn’t matter what I called myself, it wasn’t the label that held any power, it was in my willingness to claim it for myself to give myself the credit and the responsibility the label implied in my mind. But it was a lesson. There was something very telling about my timidity… In taking ownership of my training and my commitment to the run, I only got better, faster, stronger; but not because I’d found my “inner runner” she’d been there the whole time. But because I was embracing the wholeness of it all – the wholeness of me.