I was 11 years old. In the back of our school in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in 1971, I ran the 900-yard dash. On the dirt around the playground I pushed myself as I ran as fast as I could. Again and again my classmates past me, even tough my mouth was dry, my chest was tight, and the left side of my abdomen was in a knot. I had on my red Keds. They were not serving me well. Three classmates were behind me when I reached the finish line. There was little pleasure in that.
I knew I was not a runner. I took this knowledge with me for a long time. I liked to walk and I enjoyed walking for miles in the city, my favorite mode of transportation. Often joggers passed me by, and I looked at them as if they were another species. Friends of mine would speak of their runs, their races, their ability to go miles in any type of weather. Not me, I just walked.
And, then two years ago I tried to run. A friend suggested I could run a slow pace, so that I could be gentle on knees, and not hurt my lungs. It worked. As 70 year old runners passed me by, I started out jogging a quarter mile, a half, and then one full mile. It felt great. I liked it. I could do something I never thought I could do.
And, then this past weekend, I ran my first races. Yesterday I walked to Randall’s Island and slowly but surely ran the 5K, or 3.3 miles. Because I am so slow, I had a lot of space between me and the next runner. I happily passed walkers, but wasn’t even close the other runners. I didn’t care. This was for me, and I could put one foot in front of the other towards the finish line.
It felt good to complete the race. Larry, my husband, and Lucy our Tibetan Terrier were there to cheer me on coming an going. It was so nice to have them there. And, today I was in Central Park to run a five-mile race. I don’t know my time. I didn’t even bother to find out. For me, the fact that I was there was enough. I have no designs on a marathon. Being able to run at all is a win for me.