I was a heavy smoker until the spring of 1977. I decided to quit smoking and thought that running might help me minimize any weight gain. I would run at night when it was dark because I was embarrassed by how out of shape I was at that time. I remember I was living in an apartment complex and I could not make it to the dumpster without stopping to rest. This is what brought me to the starting line of the race in 1977.
After 5 or 6 years, I realized that I had created my own tradition of running in the Bonne Bell, now the Boston 10K for Women. I made a promise to myself that I would be at every race until I could no longer participate. I lived in southern California for 15 years, which did not deter me from the start line. I would plan work, vacations and anything else that came my way to leave the Columbus Day weekend free to race.
I ran with the flu one year and was at the back of the pack. My sister and her kids left before I finished because they were certain that they had missed me. That taught me humility. Another year, I petitioned the race committee when I broke my collarbone and could not run while it was healing. That was a funny experience for me. I got to the first intersection of the race and was unsure of which way to go! That was after about 20 years worth of races but it was the first time that I did not have thousands of women leading the way for me. 🙂
So far, highlights in my running career have been running in the early mornings in a foreign country. I saw fresh bread being delivered in plastic bags and hung on the doorknobs of customers. I was run off the road by a herd of goats. I saw the sun reflected on the river in Florence while a lone person skulled on the water. It was all so magical.
It can be very challenging to be an aging athlete. Running is the first sport that I have had to “quit” because of some physical limitations. I have learned invaluable lessons about myself along the way. In my early days, I set goals for every race such as: I will finish in under 52 minutes. As the years progressed, so did my goals: I will finish in under 55 minutes. I will finish in less than one hour. Now I am happy to be at the starting line and my goal is to finish without an injury! I learned that being a part of something special is more important than a number. I learned that I could be proud of an accomplishment even if it is less than what it used to be. I am learning to age gracefully and still be in the game. I celebrate my ability to be me however that translates, as I get older.
This October I will look forward to seeing the other women who have run with me for 43 years. I will look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with the thousands of women who will be with me this year. I will look forward to being a part of something special.