I believe in sweat. Most specifically, the kind that accompanies a morning run – an hour before my next door neighbor starts his pot of coffee. My Asics are laced and double knotted just as most Americans hit the snooze button for “just five more minutes” of sleep. And my eight-mile trek comes to a close right about the time that Al Roker covers the hundred-year old birthdays on the Today show.
This, I believe, is what the majority of people would call crazy. Some ask why, others display their confusion with widened eyes and cocked heads. In reality, I have a hard time providing a satisfactory answer. How can you explain the desire to begin each day bathed in a sweaty film? Or the odd interest in running eighteen miles, to the point that limbs become gelatinous and the mind fades into mild hallucinations? Clearly, many aspects of marathon training prove unattractive, humbling, and emotionally jarring.
I find beauty in the pain.
If I can persevere through pulled hamstrings and a dislocated knee, I believe I can survive almost anything. During my first job interview out of college – a petrifying experience, to say the least – memories of best race times and running on fumes flooded back. Every iota of physical strength instantly extinguished my uneasiness and ignited a new found confidence. At once, I was reassured. An eerie sense of calm washed over me then, as it tends to do during most moments of insecurity.
As a 22 year old woman, I have found myself out-numbered, out-qualified, and out- debated in one too many situations. Age aside, being female in today’s male dominated society has its own challenges. Some choose to face these head on, verbally – I, however, tend to take a more subtle approach. History proves it.
Nothing prolongs my runner’s high more than the rare opportunity to pass a man during a race. I certainly take immense pride in such a chance encounter. As a woman, though, I’m praised for my femininity. For appearing refined, graceful, and blemish-free. Challenging these stereotypes can be dangerous, but I think perpetuating them is far more lethal.
Come race day, I find myself bound and determined to run hard, and off the beaten path. As I approach a group of male participants, a surge of electricity propels my body even with theirs. And then, with the grace of the finest southern debutante, I silently pass them.
The soreness that ensues for the week after doesn’t faze me, and I’ve learned to buy bulk in Icy Hot to ease the discomfort of climbing stairs.
So is the life of a runner. Days punctuated by the sweetness of pushing the limits and breaking boundaries. Of knowing that, despite the commentary of others, our craziness makes perfect sense to each other. This, I believe, is all that really matters.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.