When I gave birth to Little Miss over four years ago, I started to belong to a new community of parents. More specifically, mothers. Friendships formed because of our need to find others like us - we can’t be the only ones with circles under our eyes and baby socks in our work bag.
About 11 months later, I started this blog to write about this experience - I did it for me, so I could write, and especially for my daughter, now daughters, so they could have these memories. I became their memory keeper.
It didn’t take me long to find a robust group of bloggers in this virtual space, specifically mothers who blog, doing more or less the same thing I was, and again, I found myself immersed in a new community. This is where we commiserate about our adventures in parenthood, laugh with one another about our follies and our children’s escapades, and figure it all out, one day - and sometimes, one word - at a time.
Seven months ago, on a crisp September morning, I started running for the first time in my life. The plan was to run three times a week, for health. And apart from being sidelined by an injury back in January, I have done just that. Rain or shine, snow, sleet, bitter cold, or hail. I ran through it all. While the moment my daughter took her first breath I became a mother and when I hit publish on my first post I became a blogger (although calling myself a writer came years later), I didn’t become a runner with my first steps. Or my first mile. Or my first 5K race on Thanksgiving Day.
I wasn’t a runner even on that sunny January day when I completed my first 10-mile run in 30-degree weather. Or at least I wouldn’t allow myself that label. It felt like I hadn’t earned it. At least not yet. So in the weeks that followed, I would continue to run three days a week consistently and heal my injuries or discomfort with foam rollers, compression socks, and ice packs for the days that I didn’t.
Thumper, my 22-month-old, would run ahead of us sometimes and yell, ‘Yuck me! ‘m wunning. Exercise!” I don’t think her four-year-old sister learned the term exercise until she had to do it herself at preschool, well past the age of two. She might have been pushing three, and she certainly didn’t learn it by watching me.
When I’m not running, I would see runners on the street or by the lakefront and I’d feel jealous - I wanted to be the one running. As the weather showed signs of winter’s end, the first spring outfit I bought was a running skirt. With my first big paycheck from my freelance work this year, I bought myself a spring running jacket and Little Miss a pair of running shoes.
And I registered for a half-marathon. Gulp.
Even with all of that, I wasn’t ready to call myself a runner. I’d toy with the term using hashtags on my workouts that also publish to Twitter - #runner, #runnersview - but I had never directly referred to myself as one. I couldn’t. The term seemed to imply so much more than just lacing up and hitting the pavement, which was what I’d been doing. More or less.
Then tragedy struck at the Boston Marathon this past Monday. Two explosions. Three dead, one of them an eight-year-old boy who was there to cheer for his dad. Over a hundred others wounded. My heart went out to everyone affected by this tragedy. The dead, the grieving, the injured, the stranded, the lost, the runners.
The runners. For some reason, that hit me the hardest. They’ve worked so hard to get there. Months, even years, of hard work and sacrifice culminating on a day like that. Triumphant in their accomplishment, but robbed of their moment of glory because of a heinous act.
I ran 12 miles on Sunday against a relentless wind. It felt really tough, and many times, I wanted to give up, wondering why I was putting myself through all that when I could be in the comfort of my home with my family. When I think of that training run, I realized that, as difficult as it felt for me, it was a mere fraction of what the marathoners had to go through to get to Boston.
They’ve had to work through pain, gruelling hills, extreme temperatures, and whatever it took to qualify and then run in Boston. And just like that, a day that should have been theirs, that should have been rife with smiles and celebrations, was taken away from them.
As a mother, I can’t get past the image of the eight-year-old who lost his life in the explosion. As a blogger, I’m writing to process my feelings, as most writers do, hoping that these words would reach someone who would, in turn, reach back out to me so we can talk and feel together, and try to make sense of that which is senseless.
And on a day where runners wore their previous race shirts or ran to show their solidarity for Boston, I did too.
This community of runners is comprised of all types of people, and as such, it embraces us all. Two miles or five. 26.2 or 50. Eight-minute or 16-minute mile. They say that we are all runners. And I'm starting to believe them.
I no longer feel like I need to run a marathon or log several more miles or races to belong. Or more importantly, after witnessing the incredible spirit of this group in light of this tragedy, I want to belong.
Today, I ran five miles in honor of Boston. In 10 days, I will run 13.1 for me.
I am a runner.
I am a runner. I am a runner.
Justine - mother, writer, runner...
I love the sound of that.
image source: Run by Fey IIyas.