"My mom saw you running; she said you run like a girl."
"Hey! Speed it up."
The first was a silly comment from an actual friend, which intended no harm, and wasn't bad, but it did make me feel wimpish.
The second was the comment that effectively ended my running tenure. It was some random morning delivery truck driver, Hostess or something, bringing a shipment to the local convenience store that I ran by in the pre-dawn hours. Maybe his comment was a joke as he shot by. Whatever his intent, that was my last straw. I was done. Sick of early morning rushes to get a run in before the sun came up, sick of trying to run off what never ever should have happened. I was just sick of doing life at that point. And the last thing I needed was my quiet morning run assailed by some wise guy. Is that how everyone saw me? Was I a slow runner who looked like a girl? It was my breaking point.
I'm a slow runner; I'm a girl. But those comments ran in tandem through my mind which was still reeling from Nov. 7 of 2005. It was now summer 2006. And I had no more oomph.
I don't know when I stopped calling myself a runner. I finally would say "I used to run." It always hurt me to say that because my desire was to run. I picked it up here and there a few times--training for a 5K very loosely but enough to get by, stuff like that. But the discipline and dedication were gone. Those were bad signs. Runners run.
But Saturday in Fargo, I remembered again. I run like a girl. I run like a girl who runs half marathons, and dances into the finish line not exhausted just exhilarated. Is that what a girl runs like?
Do I need to speed it up? Well, of course I want more speed, but I didn't get the genes of a Kenyan. Actually, my DNA test indicates I should be a "sprinter." This sprinter ran a half marathon.
As a runner, I run for myself, to conquer my own goals. I am a person for whom everything physical has come with difficulty. It takes me twice as long to learn, and I struggle all the way. But I think that makes it all the more sweet when I gain the prize. What others can casually do, I do with labor--and when I get that medal, I have earned every step of it through sweat. That is satisfying.
On this journey I have had almost all encouragement. Once in a while a know-it-all comes along, but usually people are just amazing, supportive, cheering along. It's been a blast to do this with social networking. I am immensely thankful for the massive rounds of support. I think my half marathon finish picture has more likes on it on Facebook than any picture I have ever put up in all the years I have been online. That makes a girl feel good.
So I remember those defining comments in that hard time before I quit running. And then I remember my half. Maybe I do run like a slow girl, but I was too busy running and succeeding to worry about someone else's weaknesses and failures.
Words are powerful. Jokes made in jest can affect our hearts deeply. I remember words with such depth that they remain. But this weekend, I got glorious victory over those lingering comments.
And I have the medal to prove it.