Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Running Like Girls

Choosing a running partner is very important. You can’t pick just anyone. I have picked Kara (or rather she picked me when she promised we could wear matching t-shirts for the Music City half marathon). Neither of us are big runners. Or at least not the kind you see flashing past in lots of lycra barely breaking a sweat and breathing a forced “hah hah” as they pass. We each have run one other formal race in our lives: Kara ran a 5k in grad school and was passed by a silver-haired lady wearing an over 70 running club shirt. I ran a 5k with my dad when I was 11. I ran that race also due to the promise of matching t-shirts.

We don’t have the whole running thing down quite yet. I mean, we make the miles but speed and style have yet to be part of our equation. On Saturday we ran at a park that has a 1 mile loop. We were aiming for 4 miles so we encountered many of the same people during our run. We were smoked by the same runners frequently but only managed to pass someone else once. Actually, it was two people: two old ladies who had stopped to look at a bird in a tree just off the path. Yes, we passed them mainly due to the fact that they were fully stopped for several minutes consulting a bird book. And yes, we still felt good about it.

We make quite a site. Every few steps I manage to kick myself or veer suddenly and for no apparent reason toward the grass … or towards an oncoming walker/runner/innocent child. The kids on scooters are wisely giving us a wide berth. Kara is wearing some big headphones to keep her ears warm -- the cord hangs loose in her pocket not plugged into anything. She hates to be cold and even though it’s in the upper 50s she is wearing enough clothes to warm a small northern country. Kara first gets stuck in her windbreaker due to a jammed zipper. She is eventually able to shimmy her arms out of it and tie it around her waist. She then takes off her fleece and ties it around her waist. I tie her sweatshirt around my waist as Kara has a small waist and if she ties one more thing around it gravity may win and pull her to the ground.* I’m secretly glad to have the sweatshirt around my waste because in the warmish weather my underwear has started to get a bit sweaty and bunchy and cannot be providing a good view from the back.

That is the kind of thing I can say to Kara – about the underwear. And that keeps the conversation going for a good half mile. Someone must make special underwear for sweaty-butted runners, right? We both agree this has to be ‘a thing’. No subject is off limits: recipes, boobs, books, ovulating, husbands, parenting, politics, and desserts are all fair game. We have also been known to sing the theme from Rocky while cresting the slight incline that can only in the loosest sense be referred to as a hill. Kara comments, “I think we may be running in place….”

But the pace is not the point. I have not chosen my running partner for speed or distance. My running partner is not ashamed to be seen with someone who kicks herself and has major wedgies. I would not be mortified to throw up in front of her. Or admit that I need to walk. My running partner tells off the mean guy at the indoor track who yells at us to get out of his lane. My running partner always has enough clothes to keep us both warm. I picked Kara because when I run with her, or walk with her, or talk with her, I feel strong. The first steps of our run always feel like the first steps into spring -- our hearts light and our hair and skin soaking up the new warmth of the sun.

* Note: we did not stop running on any of the above wardrobe adjustments. We are such multi-tasking goddesses.

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