I remember seeing this on a tshirt once at a marathon expo, and its meaning has stuck with me ever since. I’ve always run. From the time that I was young, I never walked anywhere. I ran up and down the stairs at home, never being able to slow down and driving my parents crazy with the noise and the speed. Funny, my own two children don’t seem to have that same tendency and it’s a real battle to get them to do any exercise. But when I was young, I felt the need to move my feet constantly. I still do, but relegate it to several times a week to burn off some of the stress and to feel alive. It’s not a chore to have to exercise, I don’t understand it when people ask how I can get up in the early morning to run, rolling their eyes when my own mist over with the telling of another tale of a good run….
When I was young, I had so much potential as a runner. I was a great combination of Type 1 and Type 2 fibres, I could go really really fast but I could also run long, making me both a track & field star and a long distance champion. I could even long jump. The only thing that I sucked at were discus and shot put, usually the domain of the chubby kids, anyways, as they weren’t too interested in much else. My childhood friend Stephanie visited me in Barbados a couple of years ago and claims that we ran a mile under 6 mts, consistently. I didn’t believe her. Was I that fast? I must have been, she’s not known to lie. I couldn’t do that now even if my house was on fire!
After winning top Junior girl for the Brockville area in 1982, I was invited to take part in a provincial track & field meet in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. I went there hoping for great things, but I came out defeated and I decided to hang up my competitive running shoes forever after the first race that I entered and didn’t win, being beat out by two big black girls that ran past me within the first 10 feet of the start. There was no amount of training that would ever make me faster then they, so why bother? It’s not the defeatist attitude so much as the early wisdom of a girl who knew what her limits were, and I was wise enough (but not tenacious enough) to know mine.
Of the 42 years that I’ve occupied space on this planet, I’ve only ever not run for about ten of those years, in what I refer to as my “post natal lazy stage” that lasted far too long. Taking for granted the natural good health of youth, one day on holidays I realized that I was having trouble making it up a hill in England and decided that I couldn’t live like this any longer, that indeed, my good health had disappeared and that I was heading into the dreaded middle-aged out of shape zone. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process and that’s why it’s so shocking when you realize one day that you’ve crossed over to the other side. I don’t want to be old, I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to be out of shape. That’s for other people, not me! So I came back from holidays and hit the treadmill, and my running happy feet were back on once more.
So, multiple marathons, an ultra and more half, 10s, 7s & 5kms that I can shake a stick at, I still daydream of being that really fast child runner of the 70s & 80s, the one that the kids used to count on to win the relay, the one who always made the school proud and the one who went from autumn cross country champ to spring track & field champ. Having morphed into middle-aged-mediocre runner, the golden days of my running youth are but a distant memory to be lived over & over again in my dreams…..let those of us privileged enough to be able to impart those dreams on the next generation do so, through the encouragement of young people into our sport. It doesn’t matter if the child comes last, they will only remember their success at completing the race when they are older, with selective, sweet memories of their success…..
Below are my childhood photos, and of my daughter doing her Disney 5km a few years ago, running the whole way to keep warm….