Running Connections

So I’ve been a little AWOL recently because I had to take a week off training due to injury. In order to actually follow through with taking time off, I decided not to blog because it would make me feel guilty for not training and this was something I really had to do to allow my body to heal and continue training for the half. Thankfully the pains I was (/am) having were a couple strains that could be trained through, with proper PT, which I am diligently going to bi-weekly. Any who, in my time off I went to Lollapalooza, the beach, and got a tattoo. During all of this, something really cool happened. I made connections with total strangers based off of our shared love of running.

 

Okay, so Lollapalooza really doesn’t have anything to do with running connections…I only brought it up because 1) I wanted to brag (seriously most unbelievable experience) (for those of you who don’t know what it is, it is a three day music festival in downtown Chicago), 2) It is another reason why I took time off running, and 3) Chicago was unbelievably beautiful and I would have loved to have gotten to run there. Next time I’m there I plan on running in Grant Park and by the lake. Any other recommendations of places to run in Chicago?

 

As for getting the tattoo, this was a very momentous occasion. My mom is one of my very best friends in the world. She and I were born on the same day and it has created an extremely special bond between the two of us. For a while now, we’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo. We decided to get our birthdate with a tree and two birds, one flying and one resting in the tree. It’s based off of a saying that I wrote a poem about last year that says you give your children roots, then you give your children wings. The whole point of the tattoo is to be a reminder of the bond we share and representative of how to be together when we are apart. At the bottom of this post is the poem I wrote.

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After extensive research, we decided to get our tats at Redemption Tattoo, a place that had come highly recommended, and we were certainly not disappointed. We worked with the artist Josh McAlear who took the concept we had in our heads, and turned it into a reality. He is a true artist and extremely professional and accommodating. I could not have asked for a better experience, nor could I be more happy with the outcome.

 

Let me just say, my mother and I are not your average hardcore tattoo types, and yes we know stereotypes are changing blah, blah, blah, but still. After my mom had gotten her tattoo she said, “I feel like a real rebel” as Josh stifled a laugh behind her back. I responded, “No one wearing a shirt from Talbots can be a rebel.” We were rather intimidated by the tattoo-covered artists and felt a little silly and noobish. When we got there though, there were two other people getting tattooed, both pretty vanilla in my book. I felt right at home. The guy getting tattooed next to me had brought his girlfriend along. She struck up a conversation with me after my tattoo was finished and my mom was getting hers.

 

She asked me about the meaning of my tattoo and told me that once you get your first, it becomes pretty addictive. I mentioned how I’ve already thought about possibly getting a running related tattoo, perhaps the distance of the farthest race I run. Her face lit up when I mentioned I was a runner and she proudly popped her foot in the air. She pointed at the black lines on the top of her foot and told me that it was the time from her first marathon in Roman Numerals. When she removed the laptop from her lap, I saw she was wearing a shirt that said Bahstan Runnah. We talked for a while about running, races, running clubs, injuries, and then fitness blogging came up. Turns out she does social media for an organic beer brewery called Peak Brewing. While I am under 21 and thus cannot try the product, I think that what they’re doing (i.e. all local and organic) is unbelievably cool. It was an absolute pleasure meeting her and it was so amazing to make a connection with a total stranger, in a tattoo shop of all places.

 

Yesterday, my parents and I went to the beach. Right after we had set up camp, I started hearing tid-bits of very familiar words coming from the group of adults sitting right next to us. A little backstory, there is a relay race in Oregon called the Hood to Coast, it is a 12-person, 195 mile relay race from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast. My dad has run it around 10 times and I have been there every year to cheer him on. I’m hoping soon to run it with him, but that’s a story for another day. Anyways, I’m familiar with the lingo that accompanies the race and realized the people next to us were talking about it. I told my dad, who of course was already lost in his book, and he went and talked to them about it. Turns out only one of the guys had run it, but the entire group of people was full of marathoners and triathletes (my favorite was the mid-thirty year old mother of 4 who has done several Ironmans).

 

The point of all of these ramblings is that running has the ability to unite people from all walks of life, in all kinds of situations. When I started running, I was in serious Track and Field withdrawal. I really really missed the community that the sport brought with it and what I love so much about running is the incredible community it breeds. You have to be a little bit crazy to be a runner. And that crazy streak is what unites such an unbelievably diverse group of athletes. People run for all different reasons. There is no stereotypical runner. The thing we all have in common is this need to move and find our inner strength outdoors. Be it at a tattoo parlor, or on the beach, the power of running is strong and pervasive. The community can find you anywhere and the opportunities running provides you with for connections are limitless, much like the feeling it provides you with while running.

 

Here is the poem I wrote about the phrase that my mom and I’s tattoos are based on:

 

Departures

 

I.

 

You give your children roots

Then you give your children wings.

We don’t know what to do,

with our bodies springing loosely from the ground, reaching

for the sun.

 

Caked in the rich soils of our past,

our feet ache

to remain here

in fertile familiarity.

But out heads

see horizons undiscovered

and ache to fill each cavity

with

all that, out there.

 

Our hearts, right here,

right in the middle,

yearn for the answer.

The freedom to fly,

But strength

to carry our homes along for the ride.

 

II.

 

I once tried to fly away

too soon,

my feet caught among the brambles,

my skin stretched too thin across my rib cage.

Familiar hands tickled my sides

with rounded nails slightly too long.

I fell back to earth.

 

As the date crept ever closer,

I tried to burrow deeper,

Thought

maybe I’d like to be a seedling

again.

But I dirtied my wings,

and scraped my toes along the bedrock.

 

III.

 

One day,

our roots loosened,

wings strengthened,

ready to weather the weight

of hearts grown heavy as rocks.

 

We took flight.

Mud dripped from our feet

to the grown-ups on the ground like toy figurines

shrinking in the final rays of day.

 

Wind will toss our bodies like rag dolls, tatter

our fragile wings.

Our feet will yearn for stability or permanence.

It’s departure time.

We’ll take what we’ve been given,

And figure the rest out

along the path.

 

 

 

Daddy’s Girl

*Disclaimer: This article is not to say that my dad and I weren’t close, or had trouble connecting before I became a runner, or to say that the only way we could connect was through sports. That would be a narrow-minded dishonor to our relationship. But I will say that running has kicked down new doors in our relationship, allowing us to communicate above words, through the magic sound of feet pounding pavement.

My mother and I have the type of connection that can only come from sharing the same birthday. There is some inextricable link between us, akin to the bond I imagine twins share. My mother is the heart and soul of our family. She is vivacious, talkative, expressive, and loving. For whatever moodiness, or brooding that the rest of the family, myself included, brings to the table, my mother’s kindness softens those edges and envelops us all. I am my mother’s daughter in so many ways, words and feelings seem to bubble from the two of us incessantly, but for all of our similarities I have a very prominent streak of my father in my makeup as well. If my mother is the heart and soul of our family, my father is the backbone.

My father is a diamond in the rough. He is the type of man by which I measure all others, and most fall very short. He is quiet, stoic, brilliant, modest, quirky, and deeply kind. A man of few words, he makes what he says count. As a daughter, I think I baffle him. I talk a mile a minute about trivial teenage girl drama and I’m not deluded enough to think any of that could be of interest to him. I know though, that he cares. It is through his words and pep talks that I have found the strength to overcome all challenges, both athletically, and in day-to-day life. When I have stopped believing in myself, my dad has always been there with a steely faith to keep me going. It is through his even keel and unwavering support that we connect.

He may not say much with his mouth, but I’ve learned that he speaks through his feet. For as long as I can remember, my dad has been a runner. Through good times and bad he has disappeared outside to pound out his grievances on the pavement, returning sweat covered and lighter in demeanor. While he was never disappointed in my decision not to be a distance runner in high school, I was disappointed in myself that I couldn’t give him that common ground between us. Instead, he learned about jumping, came to my meets after long days in the office, standing far enough away as to not distract me, but close enough that I could feel the comfort of his presence.

When I finally got into distance running, I wanted it as much for myself, as for my dad. I didn’t want to take his hobby, but I wanted to be a part of it. My dad shares so little of himself in the ways that I consider conventional, but I realized it wasn’t an issue of sharing, so much as learning to listen. So I laced up a pair of running shoes and started listening to the pavement.

Two days after my first run, that fateful DC spring day when I decided I was going to be a runner, I went to NYC for a family member’s wedding. I asked my dad if he wanted to go running with me. We did a five-mile loop around the Central Park Reservoir. No matter how many races I run, or how many training runs I go on in the future, this run will keep a very special place in my heart. Since that run I haven’t felt as undeniably happy and invincible while running. The weather was crisp and cool, the view was beautiful, but it was the companionship that made it so special. My dad and I didn’t talk much, but our feet were communicating. Sharing such a triumphant and trying experience such as running, with another person is the stuff that unbreakable bonds are made of. The simple sound of my father’s panting and the crunchy beat of his feet on the gravel was the most comforting and beautiful way for him to say I love you.

Our first daddy-daughter run around the Central Park  Reservoir.

Our first daddy-daughter run around the Central Park Reservoir.

Another trait I get from my father is my hyper-competitiveness. Every run for me is a competition with myself and I am constantly looking at all things with a competitive mindset. My father though, always lets me set the pace, staying a half foot behind so as to never pressure me to go faster. I never thought much of this until doing a race with him and seeing the speed he is capable of. When we first started running together, I was running 10:15 miles, well over 2 minutes slower than his average pace. Knowing how competitive he is, I realize how much it means for him to slow down to run with me. I love running with my dad, and true to my personality, I am vocal about it. My father, also true to his personality, is not. I could easily interpret that as meaning he doesn’t enjoy running together, but that would mean I wasn’t listening. Our side-by-side footfalls mean the world to the other.

While I will have the art of running my entire life, running with my dad has meant, and will mean, more than any other accomplishment I ever achieve in running. Running has been a part of my father’s life for more than 40 years, and it is an undeniable privilege and honor to be able to share in this world that has meant so much to him.

Summer training run.

Summer training run.