Few things liberate the soul quite like a good run. For myself, four miles is the “Zen zone” – the magical point at which surroundings fade and stress melts. And this is how I was enticed to run my first half-marathon. Only 9 more miles, right?
I prepared myself as any athlete might. Morning and evening stretches. Ice after long runs. And caffeinated GU – the chocolate variety.
But, come race day, the obstacles weren’t at all what I expected. Amazingly, I paced one minute faster than my training (8:13) for the entire race. When the finish line finally entered my sights, less than half of a mile stood between my sneakers and victory.
In the last few miles, a strange thought struck me. I hadn’t seen another female runner in a while. But this was a public race, and it was 2011.
And, just like that, I hit my second wind and felt the release to sprint.
Only I didn’t expect what came next. I was tripped. I was pushed. I was cursed. It seemed that every man I attempted to pass in that final stretch demanded I take the path of increased resistance.
Was it jealousy? Perhaps.
Was it anger? In some instances.
Was it sexism? This one still lingers.
But that was six years ago. And, according to too many, we live in a world where women should simply be grateful to participate in the race – where we shouldn’t question how others slow us down, hold us back, or damage our identity.
A glimpse at our nation shows great division. Everyone holds an opinion and can rightfully express it. But let’s not kid ourselves (or our kids) that only the issues we personally face matter. We cannot turn a blind eye to the injustice that connects us all.
The world doesn’t stop hurting when we turn off our screens.
I have yet to run another half-marathon – perhaps out of a deeper fear. But when I see “13.1” adorn a bumper, I still choose to smile.
Just after I began the half-marathon, I befriended a man my father’s age. That incredible 8:13 pace, I owe to him. He encouraged. He cheered. And when his legs weakened, he whispered, “Keep going!”
A few bad apples didn’t sour the race. And they never will as long as those who can use their voice for good.
One Year Ago: A Raisin in the Son